Global chemical pollution now exceeds safe limit for humanity

January 26, 2022 by Tom Yun

A new study warns that the amount of chemical pollution on the planet has now exceeded a safe limit, threatening the 'viability' of human civilization.

An international team of researchers published their findings in the journal Environmental Science & Technology on Tuesday. Their study builds on a 2009 Swedish-led paper that established the safe limit, otherwise known as "planetary boundary," for several environmental metrics, including greenhouse gas emissions, ozone layer depletion, deforestation, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, and chemical pollution.

The planet had remained within those limits for 10,000 years since the start of human civilization. But a 2015 study concluded that we had then exceeded safe limits when it comes to climate change, biodiversity loss, shifts in soil nutrients and land use. Now, this new study says we're beyond the planetary boundary for chemical pollution, also called "novel entities."

"The impact of those changes is on the viability of human civilization," study co-author Miriam Diamond, a University of Toronto environmental sciences professor, told over the phone on Friday. "We are very concerned that there's a tipping point at which human civilization is really imperilled."

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