Why should we shun plastics?

While the educated and urbanised Indians do not shy away from making informed decisions, there are some simple harmful acts that need to be changed as they tend to hamper our health, writes Ved Krishna
Last Updated : 03 June 2019, 19:30 IST

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The Indian society is going through a change in mindset today wherein, they are becoming more and more aware of health issues and prefer leading a healthy lifestyle. While the educated and urbanised Indians do not shy away from making informed decisions, there are some simple harmful acts that need to be changed as they tend to hamper our health.

One of them is the use of plastic in our daily lives in its multiple avatars. We are currently waging a losing war against the material. After reaching the pinnacle in its image as the most versatile and economical raw material, plastic has been showing its harmful side. It is the material which lasts forever in the form of water bottles, bags, straws which breaks down into smaller pieces and invariably impacts human health. Even single-use plastics take more than 500 years to decompose.

Toxic chemicals leach out of plastic and are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is related to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.

Hampers health

A high concentration of single-use plastics found in everyday products has been hampering our health and environment. Microplastics concentration found in bottled drinking water was as high as 10,000 pieces in one litre. They are present everywhere and can go undetected by the best of filtration systems. Microplastics can be plastic fragments which are smaller than five millimetres before entering the environment like microfibres for clothing, or could be a result of degradation of larger plastic products.

Microplastics aren’t the only threat to human health. Bisphenol-A, commonly known as BPA, is much more harmful but very less talked about. It is used to harden plastics and can be found in the lining of all kinds of plastic products. BPA directly affects the neural, reproductory and respiratory systems of our body. Daily use products such as PET bottles, baby feeding bottles, plastic containers, plastic tableware and cutlery are glazed with BPA which mixes with the contents of the container and gets into our bloodstream.

BPA in plastic can also affect child health right from the time of conception. High levels of BPA in humans can lead to infertility and increased levels of BPA in pregnant women can result in the child being born with autism or even ADHD. BPA, after getting in our bloodstream, attaches itself with estrogen receptors by mimicking its structure. This results in the hampering of cell repair, foetal development, energy levels and reproduction.

We know little about such hormone-altering chemicals but our increasing exposure to them can prove to be fatal. There have been reports that BPA can also accelerate ageing, risk obesity and heart problems. BPA, which can safely be called a gender-bending chemical, is present in the body of 90% of the teens.

Styrene, which is a known carcinogen, is widely used in manufacturing single-use plastics, particularly foam and rigid plastic products like cups, plates, trays and utensils. Using these items for hot foods and beverages could lead to chemicals leaching into the food which is cancerous to human health. Microplastics accumulate in the liver, lungs, kidneys, intestines and can increase levels of oxidative stress molecules in the liver. They can also increase the level of a molecule that may be toxic to the brain.

Published 03 June 2019, 19:30 IST

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