State of the Science on Plastic Chemicals

Article Author: Jade Wagner, Public Health Major, Class of 2024, Co-Director

Packaging plays a large role in our daily lives, acting as the intermediary between products and consumers. However, its significance extends beyond convenience. With our GenZ and Millennial audience learning that chemicals can leach from packaging to products, it is crucial to share the latest science, urging for a closer examination of packaging materials, impact, and future.

The issue of plastics has gained significant attention, both public interest and political agendas. Martin Wagner et al.’s recent state-of-the-science report of 2024 provides a comprehensive analysis of plastic chemicals and their implications for human health and the environment. This report emerged in response to the Environment Assembly’s adoption of Resolution 5/14, titled “End plastic pollution: towards an international legally binding instrument,” in March of 2022, mandating the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. The objective was to facilitate a process for agreeing upon a global plastics treaty aimed at preventing plastic pollution and its risks to human health and the environment. The report outlines their approach to create a non-toxic future by reducing the use and proliferation of plastic chemicals of concern. A key component of the report is the creation of the PlastChem Database, a comprehensive repository of information on plastic chemicals.

The state-of-the-science report found evidence of more than 16,000 chemicals potentially used/present in plastic products. Of that, only 6% are currently subject to international regulation. “These findings highlight that there is a significant global governance gap and enforce the urgency for action under a global plastic treaty,” the authors state.  In the paper, a systematic assessment was presented of 470 scientific studies on plastic food packaging, indicating that 81% of the investigated plastic chemicals are highly relevant for human exposure. It was also mentioned that 0ver 10,000 chemicals lacked comprehensive hazard information, emphasizing the urgent need for more transparency.

Numerous studies have detected a wide array of plastic chemicals in human samples from different regions worldwide. These include phthalates, bisphenols, benzophenones, parabens, phenolic antioxidants, as well as legacy brominated and organophosphate flame retardants.  All of these chemicals have been found in human blood and urine, raising concerns about their potential adverse effects on human health. Wildlife and ecosystems are also increasingly vulnerable to the toxic effects of plastic chemicals.

In response to these findings, the report offers several key policy recommendations and key principles. There is a clear need for comprehensive regulation of plastic chemicals to mitigate effects on human health and the environment. Transparency regarding the use and presence of plastic chemicals is crucial, as well as building capacity to create safer and more sustainable plastics.

As a college student, I care what I am putting on and in my body, and what my products are being packaged in. Throughout my time on POB, my category of research has been packaging. I am so glad that I have been exposed to this information as a college student and had the privilege to share it with our community and beyond. As I reflect on my college years as graduation approaches, being able to make an impact through POB is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Sharing the science is so important, so please send this to your family and friends and check out our social media and website for more information!


Wagner, M. et. al. (2024). State of the science on plastic chemicals—Identifying and addressing chemicals and polymers of concern. PlastChem, 181.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is the author’s opinion. Our authors are not scientists. We are not providing medical advice, but simply sharing publicly available information. When we reference data and databases, we do so with the caveat that most are only as good as the data they are based on. While POB strives to make the information as timely and accurate as possible, we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the completeness, or adequacy of the contents of any site that is shared, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of these sites. POB goes to great lengths to avoid declaring shared products as “safe” as there is no legal definition of the word “safe” at this time.

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