The cocktail of chemical pollution that pervades the planet now threatens the stability of global ecosystems upon which humanity depends, scientists have said.
Plastics are of particularly high concern, they said, along with 350,000 synthetic chemicals including pesticides, industrial compounds and antibiotics. Plastic pollution is now found from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans, and some toxic chemicals, such as PCBs, are long-lasting and widespread.
The study concludes that chemical pollution has crossed a “planetary boundary”, the point at which human-made changes to the Earth push it outside the stable environment of the last 10,000 years.
Chemical pollution threatens Earth’s systems by damaging the biological and physical processes that underpin all life. For example, pesticides wipe out many non-target insects, which are fundamental to all ecosystems and, therefore, to the provision of clean air, water and food.