Senator Patty Murray
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Senator Murray,
On June 28th, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two pieces of bipartisan legislation that will shape the future of our nation’s commitment to scientific research and innovation. However, both pieces of legislation failed to include provisions for research and risk mitigation of one of the most severe threats to our public health and ecosystems: microplastics.
Microplastics, which are plastic particles smaller than 5mm in length, have become a major threat to human and wildlife health. A particularly troubling form of microplastics are microfibers, which shed during the production, wash, and wear of clothing and account for 35% of primary microplastic release into world oceans.
The risk and prevalence of microplastics pose a grave danger to environmental, animal, and human welfare.
Environmental concerns: Microplastics, as petroleum derivatives, are coated in flame retardants and other harmful chemicals that are continuously released into the atmosphere. The extreme carcinogenic effects of oil refineries and fiber processing systems erode our air quality and environmental vitality.
Animal endangerment: Microplastics and associated chemical pollutants saturate our waterways and marine ecosystems, and as such, threaten marine life that ingest them. Once ingested, these chemical pollutants can bioaccumulate up the marine food chain and infiltrate human food systems.
Human rights: Environmental racism plagues our current linear textiles economy on all fronts. In particular, plastic production relies almost entirely on the oil and coal industries, which have notoriously caused harm to nearby communities of color. These communities see a risk of cancer upwards of 50x the national average.
Currently, legislation focusing on larger types of plastic waste has been read twice in your committee within the Senate without any further action. While the current legislation includes provisions for materials research, it is aimed at large plastics alone.
We now urge you to integrate provisions specific to microplastics research into spending bills H.R. 2225, the National Science Foundation for the Future Act and H.R. 3593, the DOE Science for the Future Act and make the necessary strides towards a plastic-free future.