Pollution, rare metals increasingly present in the plastic used to create toys and food containers.
L’pollution it also affects some objects in plastic very common use, such as toys and food containers. This is revealed by a new study conducted by the University of Plymouth and the University of Illinois, published in the scientific journal Science of The Total Environment: Many plastic products contain abnormal levels of rare metals.
I rare metals they are in great demand today, due to their physical and chemical properties which make them particularly suitable for the production of electronic devices. Yet, despite their rarity, these elements are increasingly found in plastic objects of very common use: a contamination that, according to experts, could occur precisely in the production phase of this material or in the recycling processes.
Pollution, heavy metals and common objects
The researchers wanted to analyze the levels of rare metals – also called REE, Rare Earth Elements – in some very commonly used objects. They then selected 31 products, from toys to food containers, also introducing objects created from recycled plastic in the sample. The researchers, in fact, suspected possible contaminations in the process of sorting and recovering this material. Still, the experts measured the levels of bromine and antimony, two substances used as flame retardants.
The first data that emerged is how, in recycled plastic objects, levels of bromo e antimony insufficient to have a truly flame retardant effect. Furthermore, rare metals were identified in 24 of 31 samples analyzed.
But that’s not all, as the researchers also wanted to investigate whether REEs were also present in the plastic present in the sea, now lightened by the action of sea salts and exposure to the sun. Again, most of the samples reported various levels of contamination, thus underlining how thepollution from rare metals is now “ubiquitous and pervasive”.
Andrew Turner, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Plymouth and principal author of the study, commented on the results:
REEs have critical applications in modern electrical, due to their magnetic, phosphorescent and electrochemical properties. However, they are not specially added to the plastic, as they have no function in this material. Therefore their presence is more likely the result of accidental contamination during the mechanical separation and handling of recyclable components.
But what consequences could it have on the salute an exposure to these metals?
The health impacts of chronic exposure to small amounts of these metals are unknown. But today they are found at higher levels in food, tap water and some medications, meaning that plastic is probably not a significant vector of exposure for the population. However, the presence of better known and better known chemical additives could be underlying, already a cause for concern today.
Source: GreenStyle by www.greenstyle.it.
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