Plastics and (the right to) health

Graham Hamley, Stephanie Switzer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In early March 2022, at the 5th United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), a decision was made to begin negotiations on a legally binding international instrument on plastic pollution. The UNEA resolution notes "the importance of cooperation, coordination and complementarity (…) to prevent plastic pollution and its related risks to human health and adverse effects on human wellbeing and the environment".1 The emphasis of the Resolution upon the impacts of plastics pollution on human health gives expression to the rapidly expanding body of research on the various risks that the full plastics life cycle poses to human health. The range of potential negative health outcomes is diverse, and includes cancers, reproductive and developmental issues, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.2 The potential impact of the plastics life cycle on health is directly relevant to the right to health. While plastics can threaten the right to life, not all adverse health outcomes from plastics are fatal. The threshold at which plastics threaten the enjoyment of the right to health is lower than that at which they threaten enjoyment of the right to life.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEdward Elgar Research Handbook on Plastics
EditorsElizabeth A. Kirk, Naporn Popattanachai, Richard A. Barnes, Eva R. van der Marel
Place of PublicationCheltenham
Number of pages21
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Oct 2023


  • plastics
  • plastics pollution
  • plastics life cycle
  • right to health


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