Petrochemicals Pose Lethal Risks: New England Journal Of Medicine

by | Mar 19, 2024 | Daily News, Environmental News

Home » Environmental News » Petrochemicals Pose Lethal Risks: New England Journal Of Medicine

 

The use of petroleum-based chemicals has surged since the postwar era, with little regard for safety standards. A recent review published in the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine has sounded the alarm on the dire consequences of this negligence. According to the study, petrochemicals are increasingly linked to a surge in chronic and life-threatening conditions, posing a significant risk to public health.

Since the 1950s, petrochemical production has skyrocketed, currently standing at a staggering 15 times higher than before. Despite this exponential growth, a mere 5 per cent of the approximately 350,000 approved chemicals have undergone rigorous safety testing. This lack of oversight is particularly concerning as the rates of various ailments associated with these chemicals continue to climb.

Petrochemicals

Professor Tracey Woodruff from the University of California, San Francisco, who spearheaded the study, emphasizes the urgent need to recognize the interconnectedness between fossil fuels and the chemicals they produce. Not only do fossil fuels exacerbate climate change, but they also contribute significantly to the proliferation of harmful petrochemicals that endanger human health, especially in marginalized communities.

Woodruff’s analysis reveals a disturbing correlation between exposure to fossil fuel-derived endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and a myriad of health issues. These include abnormal neurodevelopment, fertility problems, various cancers, early puberty, and metabolic diseases. The detrimental effects of these chemicals are particularly pronounced during critical developmental stages, potentially leading to birth defects and lifelong health complications.

The proliferation of petrochemicals has coincided with a significant increase in neurodevelopmental disorders, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, and cancer. Researchers attribute this surge to the widespread use of compounds such as bisphenols, phthalates, PFAS (“forever chemicals”), and PBDE flame retardants. Recent studies have even linked prenatal exposure to these chemicals with an elevated risk of congenital heart defects, underscoring the urgent need for stricter regulations and oversight.

The devastating impact of petrochemicals extends beyond individual health outcomes, with chemical pollution contributing to a staggering mortality rate. Research published in The Lancet indicates that chemical pollution, originating from fossil fuel extraction and the use of petrochemicals in various consumer products, claims the lives of at least 1.8 million people annually. This alarming statistic underscores the urgent need for decisive action to mitigate the health risks posed by these hazardous substances.

Experts unanimously agree that there is no safe level of exposure to petrochemicals, emphasizing the urgent need for comprehensive regulatory measures and industry accountability. Julia Gohlke, an environmental health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, commended the study for illuminating the interconnectedness between climate change and toxic chemicals. The findings underscore the pressing need to address the unchecked proliferation of petrochemicals to safeguard public health and mitigate the far-reaching consequences of chemical pollution.

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