Chemical soup with a hint of hope – Williams Lake Tribune

“The cocktail of chemical pollution that permeates the planet now threatens the stability of the global ecosystems on which humanity depends”

It was the cheerful opening line of one of the environmental articles I dove into this week.

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about already… apparently we have now passed five of the nine planetary boundaries established in Stockholm in 2009 that define the processes of life and regulate the stability and resilience of the ability to the planet to support human life.

The four borders you crossed above will probably seem familiar to you; climate change, destruction of wildlife habitats, loss of biodiversity and excessive nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Chemical Pollution (Novel Entities on the chart) becomes #5. Two of the remaining four have yet to be quantified, so we can’t really say they’re doing well.

The chemicals of greatest concern are plastics and synthetic chemicals, such as pesticides, antibiotics and industrial compounds. These threaten all aspects of life systems by disrupting the biological, physical and chemical processes that make up all life. With around 350,000 chemicals registered for human use, only a small proportion have been studied for safety and there is still little knowledge about how different chemicals can interact and the cumulative impacts on ecosystems.

Not so fun fact; there is now a higher mass of plastic on the planet than the mass of all living mammals. Plastic nanoparticles are found at both poles; the composition depends on the origin of the samples, but in Greenland there was a combination of tire dust and nanoparticles from single-use plastics, drink bottles and clothing (polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET)).

These nanoparticles cause toxicity and inflammation at the cellular level and are considered more toxic than the larger microplastics we are all exposed to daily (another not so fun fact; the latest estimate is that we each inhale or swallow 1.8 million of microplastics per year)

Before I drown you all in doom and gloom, there is a movement to do something about it. In 2022, the United Nations plans to form an expert group, similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This would raise the profile of the problem to that of climate change and biodiversity loss, allowing governments to act earlier and more effectively against chemical pollution. With the hole in the ozone layer closing, there is precedent for governments working together to tackle a pressing chemical problem, so there is hope.

In the meantime, scientists in the articles I’ve read have highlighted the need to shift to a circular economy. Reusing and reducing waste reduces the need for new products and the chemicals associated with manufacturing. It’s back on familiar ground; most of us have absorbed some of this message over the years, whether from the angle of reducing carbon emissions, reducing waste generation, or simply saving money . Reducing the Earth’s chemical load can now be added to the reasons for your personal conservation efforts.

Waste Wise Tip: If it’s broken, fix it! By repairing an item we already own, we can reduce the environmental impact it takes to make a new one! CCCS has a Repair-It guide for repair services in the Williams Lake area, which can be found on our website, listed below.

For more information on Water Wise or Waste Wise and any of our school and community programs, contact the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society at [email protected] or visit the website at

Read more: DOWN TO EARTH: The power of numbers

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