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Microplastics and human health: scientist sets record

Alexandria, VA, May 28, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Common myths about the environmental impact of plastic and concerns about microplastics on human health are debunked by an independent scientist in an H2O In The Know podcast, a social media channel of International Bottled Water Association (IBWA).

Chris DeArmitt, PhD,(1) says false information about plastic is being spread online and in the news by environmental groups trying to scare consumers into donating to these groups’ misguided causes.

Materials used to package food and beverages (such as plastic, metal and glass) have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe for human use. Thousands of studies have been conducted on these materials over decades. “Scientists say microplastics are not yet toxic. . . “when you compare the science to what we’re told, what the public believes, what politicians believe, they’re two completely different things – and that’s a problem,” DeArmitt said.

“They (environmental groups) tell us we are eating a credit card worth of plastic a week – science says that would take 20,000 years,” DeArmitt said. “I haven’t seen any peer-reviewed, credible research showing any harm from microplastics,” he says.

“It’s not about defending plastics. It’s about starting with what’s true and going from there,” he tells H2O In The Know host Chris Torres.

DeArmitt says he has nothing to gain from setting the record straight. He doesn’t make, deliver or sell plastic, and he doesn’t even sell his book The plastic paradoxwhich is available online for free.

DeArmitt explains that he accidentally became an advocate, motivated to ensure that all discussions about plastic’s impact on the environment are based on fact and not fiction, after discovering that his children were being misinformed by their teachers. He takes on this role in his spare time, educating industry and legislative decision makers about the science behind plastics. “It’s not about defending plastics. It’s about starting with what’s true and going from there,” he tells H2O In The Know host Chris Torres.

What is the truth about plastics?

“When we compare plastics with other materials, we find that they are the greenest packaging solution in 93% of the cases studied. So in almost all cases, replacing them means a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions. I’m talking about three times more greenhouse gases, about four times more waste, and a doubling of the fossil fuel used if you want to go to paper, metal, or glass. So if you think plastic is bad, why would you switch to something that is two to four times worse? That’s a question,” DeArmitt said.

Additionally, DeArmitt explains that plastics make up less than 1% of all materials used. “Anyone who’s really concerned about using too much material wouldn’t just be talking about 1% of a problem, because that’s a sure way to fail, right? I am a problem solver by trade, and I know that a good way to not solve a problem is to start with bad information and obsess over 1% of it,” he says.

And when it comes to landfill waste, plastics make up a surprisingly small share. “Plastics have been proven to dramatically reduce the amount of material going to the landfill, as on average, 1 pound of plastic replaces 3 to 4 pounds of metal, glass or paper.”

Most consumer plastic packaging, such as the PET and HDPE plastic used to package bottled water, is 100% recyclable. DeArmitt states that plastic packaging has the least impact on the environment, regardless of whether or not it is recycled.

Plastic pollution

Green groups often lobby for a ban on the use and sale of plastic, citing this as a way to end plastic pollution. But as DeArmitt explains, the pollution they discuss is really “litter created by humans.” He continues: “And we know the solutions for that. It’s education, deposit schemes and fines. And this is a crucial point.” Getting rid of one type of packaging material, such as plastic, will not stop people from littering. They will continue to throw or leave cans and bottles out of car windows and on the ground in parks and on beaches.

“I’m always pushed back on that. They say: you can’t blame the people. And I’m like, yes you can. You have to blame the people who were to blame, right? If you blame the wrong people, you come up with solutions that only make things worse. And that is the importance of a correct distribution of the debt,” he says.

The bottled water industry has made great efforts and progress in producing packaging that uses less material and energy and is 100 percent recyclable. Although the recycling rate for bottled water containers is higher compared to other packaged beverages, the industry is also committed to improving current recycling rates.

“The only way to make sensible choices that actually work and don’t make things worse is to start with facts,” he says. “My biggest fear is that if you start with nonsense, you will end up doing things that don’t make sense. … The politicians believe the lies. The consumers believe the lies. And so consumers demand things that are scientifically certain to increase harm.”

DeArmitt says consumers are also being misled about plastic in the ocean. An analysis of ocean gyre plastics shows that 85% of the plastic in the ocean is fishing nets and only 0.03% is single-use items (straws, bags, etc.). “The oceans are not choking on these things,” he says.

Listen and subscribe to H2O In The Know wherever you get your podcast: Apple, Google, Stitcher, Spotify, or SoundCloud.

To listen to this podcast in full, CLICK HERE.

You can also watch the Chris Torres interview with Chris DeArmitt on YouTube by CLICKING HERE.

A transcript of the podcast is available by CLICKING HERE.

For more information about bottled water, visit the IBWA website: www.bottledwater.org.

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Media contact:
Jill Culora
[email protected]
703.647.4609

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information on all types of bottled water, including spring water, mineral water, purified water, artesian water and sparkling water. Founded in 1958, IBWA’s membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. IBWA is committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, to establish comprehensive and stringent standards for safe, high-quality bottled water products.

In addition to FDA regulations, IBWA member bottlers must adhere to the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which imposes additional standards and practices that in some cases are more stringent than federal and state regulations. A key feature of the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is a mandatory annual factory inspection by an independent, third-party organization.


(1) Chris DeArmitt, PhD, is a fellow and charter chemist of the Royal Society of Chemistry, as well as a fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. He is also the author of a book called The plastic paradox.

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