Subcommittee to Hold Briefing on Effects of Plastic Production and Pollution on Americans’ Health During Coronavirus Crisis

Jul 6, 2020
Press Release

Washington D.C. (July 6, 2020)—On Tuesday, July 7, 2020, at 1:00 p.m. (EST), Rep. Harley Rouda, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment, will hold a virtual briefing on “Plastic Production, Pollution and Waste in the Time of Covid-19:  The Life-Threatening Impact of Single Use Plastic on Human Health.”

The briefing will discuss how two current major health crises, the coronavirus pandemic and air pollution caused by the plastics industry, are disproportionately affecting low-income, minority communities.

It is estimated that the United States produced about 35.4 million tons of plastic in 2017, nearly all of which is manufactured from petroleum byproducts derived primarily from fossil fuels. 

The plastic industry’s reliance on fossil fuels and petrochemicals results in serious negative health impacts through substantial greenhouse gas emissions and release of toxic chemicals, including potentially fatal health effects like headaches, tremors, aplastic anemia, dermatitis, decrease in T-cell production, blindness, nervous system damage, and cancer.  Petrochemical plants are often located in or near predominantly low-income communities and communities of color that are forced to face the brunt of these serious negative health burdens. 

In addition, common methods of plastics disposal, including municipal solid waste incinerators, which emit pollutants such as fine particulate matter 2.5, and landfills, which can produce gases such as methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide, are often located in low-income and minority communities.

Research indicates that pre-existing respiratory and heart conditions place people at higher risk for coronavirus.  This is especially problematic for communities that have significant air pollution since it is proven to exacerbate pulmonary diseases.

Tuesday’s briefing will also examine emerging research on the disastrous long-term health impacts of consumption of microplastics, including through single-use plastic bottles of water.



Subcommittee on Environment Briefing on “Plastic Production, Pollution and Waste in the Time of Covid-19:  The Life-Threatening Impact of Single Use Plastic on Human Health.”


1:00 PM ET



Judith Enck
Beyond Plastics
Former EPA Regional Administrator

Monique Harden
Assistant Director of Law and Public Policy
Community Engagement Program Manager
Deep South Center for Environmental Justice

Kimberly Terrell, Ph.D
Staff Scientist
Tulane Environmental Law Clinic

Yvette Arellano
Policy Research and Grassroots Advocate
Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (T.E.J.A.S.)

Carroll Muffett
President & CEO
Center for International Environmental Law



A livestream will be available on YouTube and the Committee on Oversight and Reform website.


116th Congress