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Chemical pollution has passed safe limit for humanity, say scientists.

Updated: Feb 19, 2022

Guardian Damian Carrington Environment editor

Tue 18 Jan 2022 08.00 GMT

Study calls for cap on production and release as pollution threatens global ecosystems upon which life depends

Firefighters take part in an emergency drill against winter chemical hazards and accidents in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

The cocktail of chemical pollution that pervades the planet now threatens the stability of global ecosystems upon which humanity depends, scientists have said.

Plastics are of particularly high concern, they said, along with 350,000 synthetic chemicals including pesticides, industrial compounds and antibiotics. Plastic pollution is now found from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans, and some toxic chemicals, such as PCBs, are long-lasting and widespread.

The study concludes that chemical pollution has crossed a “planetary boundary”, the point at which human-made changes to the Earth push it outside the stable environment of the last 10,000 years.


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