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Environmental toxicologist Martin Wagner joins the show today to discuss the effect of plastics and other endocrine-disrupting agents on human health and the ecosystem at large.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Roughly how many compounds have been detected in many plastic products, and what percentage of those compounds are actually identifiable
  • What one of the main challenges is in determining which chemicals are leachable and therefore potentially dangerous to humans
  • How to begin making steps toward the development of plastics that are less threatening to human and environmental health

Wagner began studying plastics while obtaining his PhD, and has since focused largely on trying to determine what compounds exist in the products we consume, how those compounds function, and what effect they have on human and environmental health.

Many of these chemicals are known to disturb hormone signaling in the body, which can lead to all types of ailments. Despite this, they have become “almost invisible to us because they are just so pervasive in our everyday life,” says Wagner.

Following his PhD studies, Wagner began focusing on an area of research where he saw a void: while most researchers were looking at marine plastic pollution, Wagner wanted to look at microplastic and nanoplastic pollution on freshwater systems like lakes and rivers.

In light of the recent increase in public attention on and awareness of the environmental impact of single-use plastics, Wagner has recentered his work on this topic with the goal of emphasizing not just the use of plastics and the impact on the environment, but also the significance of the chemical compounds within these plastics.

He discusses the details of past and recent studies in the field, what it means for a plastic product to have a certain dispersion factor and why this is significant, what items are found most often on European beaches and what’s being done about it, surprising sources of plastic pollution, why recycling only works well for a few types of plastic, and more.

To learn more about Wagner’s work or reach out with questions, contact him through Twitter.

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