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Indiana struggles to reverse its high early death rate, a Texas sheriff recommends criminal charges in DeSantis' migrant flights to Martha's Vineyard, and Congress is urged to take swift action to pass the Rail Safety Act of 2023.

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Former Vice President Mike Pence files to run for President, FBI Director Chris Wray is the subject of new hearings, and a Muslim rights group is suing a Michigan sheriff for discriminatory policies.

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Oregon may expand food stamp eligibility to some undocumented households, rural areas have a new method of accessing money for roads and bridges, and Tennessee's new online tool helps keep track of cemetery locations.

Plastic Pollution Predicted to Proliferate Amid Pandemic

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Monday, July 27, 2020   

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As millions of people pledge to go plastic-free this month as part of the Sierra Club's "Plastic-Free July" campaign, the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in plastic usage in the U.S. overall.

Randi Pokladnik is a retired research chemist and environmental activist in southeastern Ohio. She said plastic packaging tossed into the garbage ends up in landfills, where it begins to leach toxic chemicals that seep into the soil and water over time.

"They just don't break down. They're experimenting with some bacteria and enzymes to help cleave the linkages between the polymers, but basically they don't break down," Pokladnik said. "They've found yogurt containers on the beaches with 1970 dates on them."

Some local governments in Ohio, such as the city of Bexley, have adopted ordinances to curb the distribution of plastic bags and other single-use plastic items. However, state lawmakers recently advanced legislation aimed at prohibiting municipalities from passing so-called plastic bag bans.

While plastic recycling efforts have been hampered by the coronavirus, Pokladnik pointed out most plastics are not designed to be reusable or recyclable.

"Forty percent-plus of most of the plastics made today are single-use packaging," she said. "And, I don't think it would take long for somebody to realize that. Just step into any grocery store, and you'll see aisles and aisles of beverages in plastic bottles."

She said exposure to plastic pollution has been shown to have a host of negative health effects, including certain cancers, birth defects and immune-system problems.

"Some of the compounds that are used and heavy metals that are used in the plastic formulations are very toxic; they get into the human body," she said. "It's very disturbing."

A study from the Rochester Institute of Technology estimates 5.5 million pounds of plastic trash - including lids, food wrappers, straws, stirrers, bottles and plastic bags - are dumped into Lake Erie each year.


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