(BY SOLAADE AYO-ADERELE)
“Studies published variously in scientific journals such as Environmental Health Perspectives and Toxicology Letters, among others, reveal that the main chemical in plastics that poses health to human health is bisphenol-A — BPA — which has been linked to the growth of precancerous lesions and abnormal development of reproductive systems in animals.“
Plastic goods come in different shapes, colours and sizes. These days, virtually every household item contains one plastic element or the other. From a baby’s feeding bottle to toys, plates, cups, cutlery, lunch baskets, freezer bags, table mats, buckets and large water containers, plastic wares seem to have taken over in the home.
Ditto the offices, where many portable utilities like water dispenser and waste bins, among others, are handy. In drive-through restaurants, you are served foods in microwavable take-away packs that are plastic.
At social gatherings such as burial ceremonies, chieftaincy celebrations or birthdays, different designs of plastic ware are usually handed out as tokens, and they are mostly monogrammed with the names and pictures of the hosts.
Food packaging and beverage industries also make use of plastic products, especially because of their durability and availability.
Design technologists say plastics can be found in natural substances or they may be man-made. Most of the plastics used today are man-made, and they are known as synthetic plastics, they explain.
Experts say natural plastic products occur in such things as animal’s horns, animal’s milk, insects, plants and trees.
According to online portal, design-technology.org, although some plastics are made from renewable resources, most are made from crude oil. Coal and natural gas are also used to produce plastics.
Plastic ware made from plants are referred to as bioplastics and they decay more easily in the environment; unlike the ones made from petrochemicals which are biodegradable.
Generally, plastic goods are durable, as they don’t break as often as do glass ware. They are also reusable and recyclable. Plus, they are cheap to purchase, while their maintenance is not a big deal.
However, in recent times, concerns are being expressed about the safety of plastic goods, what with the advent of certain new diseases that scientists link to exposure to plastic products.
Researchers say plastics may appear dumb on the table or while being held, yet they wreak havoc on health more than people know.
For one, environmentalists can’t stand plastic products mainly because they stay very long in the environment, and getting rid of them is a real headache, as some plastics cannot be recycled.
Studies published variously in scientific journals such as Environmental Health Perspectives and Toxicology Letters, among others, reveal that the main chemical in plastics that poses health to human health is bisphenol-A — BPA — which has been linked to the growth of precancerous lesions and abnormal development of reproductive systems in animals.
Reproductive Endocrinologist, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru describes BPA as oestrogen-like chemical that mimics the body’s hormones and disrupts the workings of endocrine system.
“The endocrine system and the hormones it releases are instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes. Called endocrine disruptors, these chemicals falsely tell the body’s cells that the hormone oestrogen is around, potentially causing all sorts of troubling developmental and reproductive consequences,” Ashiru posits.
Heating food in plastic ware seems to increase the amount of BPA that’s transferred to food, researchers say. They also note that migration increases when plastic touches fatty, salty, or acidic foods; while some animal studies report effects of BPA in altering the structure of human cells in foetuses and newborns exposed to it.
Another chemical to be feared is polystyrene, also known as styrofoam, used to make cups, plates, bowls, take-away containers, meat trays and more. Scientists say polystyrene is known to leach styrene into hot foods, and this can damage the nervous system and has been linked to cancer.
Phthalates are substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity and they are mostly used in polyvinyl chloride products. Scientists say PVC goods contain toxic chemicals, including Di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate.
Already banned in the United States, Canada and EU, scientists describe phthalates as one of the groups of “gender-bending” chemicals that cause males of many species to become more female. When they disrupt the endocrine systems, scientists warn, they can cause testicular cancer, genital deformations, low sperm counts and infertility.
Again, home goods such as soft, flexible plastic flooring like vinyl; or the padded play-mat floors for kids that are often used in day care centres and kindergartens, have been linked to chronic diseases, including allergies, asthma and autism.
Some housewives that Healthwise spoke to confess that, for economic reasons, there’s no how they could use glass ware for kids, whether at home or when going to school, as they may have to replace them on a regular basis.
Experts agree, though, that where it is impossible to do without using plastic ware, users should take the following steps to remain safe:
What to avoid
Avoid heating plastics, leaving them in the sun, putting hot materials in them or putting them through other stresses if you’re planning to eat or drink their contents.
•When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
•For babies, use glass feeding bottles and other safe ware that are not plastic.
•Store food in glass or Pyrex containers, rather than plastic.
•Discard scratched or worn plastic containers.
•Hand wash plastics to reduce wear and tear.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”