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The Plastic Age: Worldwide Contamination, Sources of Exposure, and Human Health Consequences 

The Plastic Age: Worldwide Contamination, Sources of Exposure, and Human Health Consequences
Chapter:
The Plastic Age: Worldwide Contamination, Sources of Exposure, and Human Health Consequences
Author(s):

Charles Moore

and Sarah S. Mosko

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780190490911.003.0002
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date: 24 November 2017

We describe the environmental and physiologic consequences of our toxic love affair with synthetic polymers in the Anthropocene epoch’s plastic age. It took only three generations for man-made polymers to attain ubiquity. The masses of synthetic polymers invading billions of lives and every part of the globe have created wealth and convenience, but their use also has generated surprising and unwanted outcomes such as intractable pollution problems and adverse health effects for humans and animals. Plastic often is perceived as an inert and physiologically harmless, because most polymers have little taste or smell, but numerous chemicals attach to and leach from polymeric materials. Many are bioactive and have been implicated as etiologic agents in diverse pathologies. The ocean is downhill from nearly everywhere on earth and receives plastic waste from far inland as well as from coastal areas. Ocean currents gather the floating fraction in enormous eddies known as gyres.

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