Say NO to plastic, the silent killer
Plastic, a well-known, world-wide recognized, essential and magical material that is always there to play its role whether it is daily routine life or may it be a critical moment in intensive care unit of a hospital. Magical material, it really is, as it has hypnotized and masked the use of other materials in every field of life and our surroundings. Its properties of flexibility, ability to mold in any shape, durability, non-conductance, non-corrosive, being light-weighted and unbreakable it has almost replaced all the other materials such as glass, clay and all kinds of metals.
Chemically plastic is a polymer composed of long repeated chains of carbon atoms. Dating back to its history it was initially prepared in 1907 by scientist who used natural cellulose material with slight variation and found this celluloid material with very distinct and attractive properties. Starting from then various experiments finally led to plastic formed from totally synthetic material.
It was welcomed positively so as to prevent the shortage of natural resources, a major problem being noticed in that era. The innovative minds started to put this discovery in various uses in market and readily being accepted world-wide. Considering its positive side it really is a heavenly material. The easy to carry water bottles , packaging material, disposable syringes, intravenous bags, dialysis tubes, military equipment and what not where it is not useful.
Easy availability and cheap market rates made it cost-effective as well. Thus the life started to get easy, swift and dependable on plastic and it was the right time when the business tycoons kept on increasing the variety of availability of plastic material in every dimension and finally we reached the state of feeling helpless without plastic material.
But now it’s the time to flip the coin. Other side shows us that this magical material has its after-effects as well in addition to all the good aspects.
- Environmental pollution:
Plastic is a non-biodegradable material meaning that it remains in environment once it has been formed. This has made us encounter an alarming situation as since the plastic is being synthesized it is getting stored in our environment without getting dissolved, destroyed or degraded. It was first time noted when an oil tanker spilled an ocean and a huge plastic waste material was observed in the ocean bed.
Awareness regarding plastic waste started to begin but till that time the people had got addicted to use of plastic. Single use items, life-saving at places like hospitals and convenient in use at other places worsened the condition of plastic waste. About 50% of plastic waste constitutes of the single use plastic including the packaging material, disposable cutlery, and PET bottles. This all waste is getting accumulated in land-fills and oceans. It is causing great danger to marine life.
- Human health:
In addition to the environmental pollution consideration of the effects on an individual are also quite marked. Pthalates, component of plastic,converts hard plastic to flexible plastic and component of PET bottles used as containers for beverages, water, cosmetic material is released from these bottles and migrates into air, food and into body including the babies in wombs.
Bisphenol A, another plastic component is an endocrine disrupting chemical. Its exposure during development leads to loss of sex differentiation in brain structures and behaviour. Experiments done in mice revealed that it caused insulin resistance and decreased sperm production. Hence now we can understand the root cause of various diseases, issues and behavioural problems are being caused by plastic, its proving to be a silent killer for the humanity as well as all the ecosystem.
Though it may not seem as acute problem like of an epidemic, flood or a war situation but the most important thing to realize is the magnitude of this problem which shows it as a danger for whole earth not only any specific area, country or a continent. If we do not say no to plastic now the situation will only worsen.
What to do:
At least the use of plastic for short term benefits and our convenience like disposable cutlery, shopping bags and containers for drinks is to be stopped though use in prosthetic limbs or life saving conditions may be done but with the laws made and followed regarding the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle the plastic material.
On wrapping up the discussion it is important to emphasize on the reality that plastic use is not only damaging our lives and our environment but this is leading us to disastrous conditions for our coming generations in respect of environmental hazard, as well as individual health problems by gifting them cancers, hormonal disease, reproductive issues, and many others like developmental issues from the very first day of their conception. So the spell of the magical cast of plastic has to be broken and come in reality to save our souls and our generations and say no to plastic, the silent killer.
Dr Saadia Hafeez