On December 7th, Health Care Without Harm Europe organised a webinar on the topic of the reduction of plastic and harmful chemical exposure to children. The session featured presentations from experts and is now available for viewing in four languages: English, French, Spanish and Dutch.
The negative impact of plastics on human health means that the reduction of plastic use is especially relevant to the healthcare sector. More and more concerning research is appearing: plastic is present in human lungs, placentas, and in blood. Researchers are increasingly worried about the potential risks to human health, and a precautionary approach is needed to reduce this risk. Plastics also contain many chemical additives such as softeners, plasticisers, stabilisers, antioxidants, colouring, and fillers. These harmful additives can easily leach into the surrounding environment, including food.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) present in plastic, including bisphenols, phthalates and PFAS, are of particular concern. These substances can interfere with hormone production or function and, consequently, affect organ formation and growth, sexual maturation, stress response, and behaviour. There is no consensus on a "safe" or "tolerable" level for EDC exposure – a precautionary approach, therefore, dictates that exposure to these chemicals should be minimised, especially at critical moments of development.
Foetuses, neonates, infants, and children are some of the most vulnerable groups to plastic's health risks. They are exposed to hazardous chemicals at a highly vulnerable moment when essential aspects of their development can be altered, perhaps with lifelong consequences. Their low body weight means the exposure can be relatively higher than for adults, and they cannot metabolise chemical substances in the same way as adults due to the ongoing development of their organs and the maturation of the different systems. The first 1000 days are particularly crucial.
These risks can be reduced. By reducing exposure to plastics and chemicals of concern, foetuses, babies, and children are more protected in this critical developmental period.
Healthcare workers, especially nurses, can significantly diminish the exposure of vulnerable groups to plastic and harmful substances, both within their practice and their communities. Many actions can be taken to reduce this exposure, and healthcare workers can also inspire and inform parents about the small changes that have significant impacts on their daily lives.
In this webinar we:
- Explore solutions already introduced in maternity and children's wards to reduce exposure to plastic and toxic chemicals.
- Show how nurses can communicate with parents.
- How risks can be reduced in daily life.
This is the second of a two-part webinar series covering the harmful impact of plastics and applying circular economy principles to reduce plastics in the healthcare sector. The first webinar is available here.
Speakers and presentations
Andreea Zotinca - Circular Healthcare Project Officer, HCWH Europe
Andreea Zotinca supports the implementation of the Towards plastic-free healthcare in Europe project within the Circular Healthcare programme at HCWH Europe. She also supports advocacy work and research initiatives at the organisation.
Dominique Licaud - Midwives Coordinator (Perinatal and Paediatrics), CH Angoulême
Dominique has worked as a midwife in multiple health centres and has expertise in responsible procurement and sustainable development. She has experience in facilitating 'Nesting' workshops to raise awareness among young parents on pollution sources inside their homes and at conferences on environmental health. She has worked on implementing good practices for health and environment in the Mother & Child centre and was the project manager for the Eco-Responsible Maternity project.
David Saura Lopez - Environmental Manager, Hospital Clinico Universitario Virgen de la Arrixaca
David Saura López has a Degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Murcia (Spain). He has professional experience in the field of environmental impact assessment of plans, projects and programs and in business environmental management. Since 2009 he has been working in the hospital sector. He is currently Head of Environmental Management at the Virgen de la Arrixaca University Clinical Hospital in Murcia and is also part of the Paediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit.
Anna Watson - Head of Advocacy, CHEM Trust