We want to celebrate these incredible women who are sailing around the world, literally picking up our garbage and analysing the macro and micro plastic that has turned our ocean into a dumpster.
Led by skipper Emily Penn, eXXpedition is a not-for-profit mission that sails around the world with a diverse team of women from over 100 different nationalities to pick up plastic, analyse it at research labs around the world, and find various solutions how to reduce this growing problem.
We decided to ask the Leg 6 Panama to Galapagos crew (below) an important question: Why do you think women can be more badly impacted by the plastic pollution problem than men?
- Alexandra Schindel, Professor of Science Education
- Anja Roennfeldt, Senior Vice President Global Ocean Freight Trade Management, Schenker AG
- Camila de Conto, Process Engineer
- Candy Medusa, Artist
- Daniela Alarcon Ruales, Marine Biologist, Galapagos Science Centre Researcher
- Dr Hilary Ruth Nash, Doctor
- Jessica Patterson, Owner of London PR agency JPR Media Group
- Marion Huiberts, Luxury Travel Advisor for TRAVEL EDGE
- Sasha Francis, Community Engagement Coordinator at Galveston Bay Foundation
- Stefanie Penn Spear, Communications and Marketing Consultant
We all carry plastic in our bodies that equate to the weight of a credit card. It affects the female body within hormone production and fertility as the hormone or tissue composition is different from a male body. It is scientifically proven that this also impacts the unborn life from chemicals passed on from mother to child and impacts levels of some hazardous chemicals passed on from generation to generation. Therefore, women are impacted twice as much by plastic and toxic pollution.
It is hard to say, we will have to wait for the results of our research :) But in general women exposed to plastic toxins in different routes than man - personal care products, cosmetics, perfumes, nail polish... And we need more research in order to determine how it impacts our body.
Thanks to David Attenborough, we all know that plastic pollution can be massively harmful to marine life, however there is still a lack of awareness of how harmful it is to us.
When plastic pollution ends up in the ocean, it never disappears, but
instead breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces: microplastics.
These microplastics have been found to act like tiny sponges, soaking up toxic
chemicals over many months, becoming more and more dangerous.
Then they get eaten by fish because it’s hard to tell difference between a tiny
piece of plastic and a tiny sea creature, which get eaten by bigger fish, and
ultimately get eaten by us.
In this way we can consume persistent organic pollutants (or POPs) which can
be stored in our bodies forever, becoming what’s known as our ‘body burden’.
Research into the impact of plastic pollution on our health has a long way to go, but we do know that in particular it effects women's health, their endocrine systems, their fertility. We also know that women's body burdens of pollutants are passed on to their children via the placenta and / or breastfeeding.
The honest answer to this is that I actually don’t know. The reason being that this is a rapidly emerging field of new scientific research, and there isn’t yet a strong enough evidence base to say unequivocally one way or the other.
What we do know is that some of the chemicals that leach out of plastic pollution in our environment, and indeed tiny microplastic particles themselves, are entering the food chain, and we as humans are consuming them. Some of these chemicals can mimic our hormones and can affect our biorhythms. Naturally one of the first things we think of in this regard is female fertility, but they could also, for example, affect male fertility, or any other biochemical or physiological process within our bodies.
As a doctor I am primarily concerned with human health, and therefore I want to learn more about these processes and help to communicate this to the greater public. This should help to create better awareness and hopefully reduce our overall plastic consumption and our impact as a species on the environment.
In terms of consumer choices, women make a lot of harmful ones for the environment.
“Sanitary products are the fifth most common item found on Europe’s beaches, more widespread than single-use coffee cups, cutlery or straws. Some 200,000 tonnes of material is believed to end up in UK landfill every year. The water engineer Hazem Gouda has estimated that 700,000 panty liners, 2.5m tampons and 1.4m sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet every day in the UK. Full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/02/the-women-taking-the-plastic-out-of-periods
Besides the fact that my boyfriend does all the cooking and almost all the grocery shopping, women make a lot of consumer choices – whether it’s sanitary products and wet wipes – mainly purchased for babies and make-up removal (93% of blocked UK sewage pipes are caused by wet wipes. Read here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/44034025_)