Centring human health in the global plastics treaty: a call to action
15 November 2022
Plastic bottles in a bin - plastic pollution


Today we published a new commentary paper: “Centring human health in the global plastics treaty: a call to action” in BMJ Global Health journal. The paper encourages the global health community to ensure that health concerns feature strongly in negotiations for a global treaty to end plastic pollution.  

Negotiations for this first ever global treaty to end plastic pollution are happening from 28 Nov to 2 Dec 2022, and they aim to establish a legally binding international agreement by 2024. This is a narrow window of opportunity for the diverse global health research and practice community to converge and collaborate, engaging with a true planetary health emergency that demands a united, global health response.

Evidence exists for the diverse human health impacts throughout the plastic life cycle, but quantifying these effects is challenging, making health, and health equity concerns vulnerable to exclusion from political debate and to false claims from vested interests. For instance, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) points to health effects in the resolution for a global plastics treaty and in a new evidence summary, but more than half of published government statements supplied to inform the upcoming treaty negotiations make no reference to health at all.

We argue that in the development of the global treaty, human health arguments are being both used in the prosecution and defence of plastic and that now, more than ever, the global health community must collaborate to generate and synthesise evidence on complex pathways between plastics, waste reduction strategies and health. This will ensure effective communication of knowledge through an overarching, inclusive, council for health that addresses the full life cycle of plastics.

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Centring human health in the global plastics treaty: a call to action

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Interested in learning more about food system plastics? Check out the work IMMANA is doing on this topic here.

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