What is it about?
Persson et al. argue that we are outside the safe operating space of the planetary boundary for novel entities, since the annual production and releases of chemicals including plastics are increasing at a pace that outstrips the global capacity for assessment and monitoring. But they do not show where the boundary for novel entities is, and that it has been crossed. Instead, their argument is based upon the cautionary principle, arguing that the current growth has not been proved to be within the safe operating space. Only a fraction of the chemicals currently in use has been assessed for risk or safety. This is, however, not a planetary boundary, but a societal boundary. A measure of the ability or inability of chemical screening to keep at pace with the introduction of new chemicals and their mixtures.
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Why is it important?
The long delay and the manifold amount of human-created novel entities compared to the 1930s, raises the question of how many novel entities we have nowadays in production that will, in 50 years, be considered to threaten some vital planetary boundary? The novel entities, as such without a defined boundary value is a vital reminder of this problem.
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This page is a summary of: Comment on “Outside the Safe Operating Space of the Planetary Boundary for Novel Entities”, Environmental Science & Technology, April 2022, American Chemical Society (ACS), DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.2c00524.
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