Home Science Single-use Plastic Products: Safety and Awareness  

Single-use Plastic Products: Safety and Awareness  

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Photo: AH/OV

Md Billal Hossen

Drinking tea from a small tea stall on the road is our everyday’s habit. Even a single day we can’t pass without having tea. Have you ever think about the cup in which you drink tea?

Whether it is safe for health or not. I think most of the answer will be ‘NO’. It is time to think about this important issue to protect our health. The COVID-19 pandemic affects our lives in various ways, mostly this pandemic forced us to change our lifestyle. As a result, where before this pandemic we drunk tea with glass made cups or plastic cup but nowadays we are using only a single-use plastic cup to drink tea. The use of a one-time plastic cup is rising very rapidly among the indigenous people of our country, because it is cheap, convenient, easily transportable and light in weight. As we know, the cup that is using in the tea stall on the road is used as a ‘public cup’, so there is a risk of corona virus transmission. But the practice that we are having nowadays can be disastrous for us.

To understand the true health hazard of the single-use plastic we need to know the composition of this plastic. Single-use plastic is composed of a polystyrene sheet which is made by the polymerization reaction of styrene. Substances are often added to plastic to help shape or to stabilize. In this regard, two types of plasticizers are added to the plastic namely Bisphenol A (BPA) and Phthalates. Where Bisphenol A makes the plastic clear and hard and phthalate is used to make plastic soft and flexible. These components are very deleterious for our health.

When we pour hot beverages in a plastic cup, BPA and phthalates leach out to the beverages, which are directly entering to our stomach. BPA is known as the most pervasive chemical today. Direct consumption of BPA causes several types complications in the human body such as disruption of endocrine hormone secretion, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and body weight, impaired fetal brain development, reproductive disorders, breast cancer, prostate cancer, asthma, obesity, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOs), impaired liver function, disrupt immune function and thyroid function. On the other hand, phthalate has been linked to a wide range of medical issues including breast cancer, male fertility issues, autism spectrum disorders, type II diabetes, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), asthma and low IQ.

Another compound in plastic namely styrene, a suspected carcinogen and neurotoxin. It causes irritation and mucous secretion from eyes and nose, increased levels of fatigue and decreased concentration ability, increased levels of abnormal pulmonary function and cancer, disrupts normal hormone functions resulting in thyroid problems and other hormone-related problems.

Exposure to this chemical for a long time can cause severe health hazards in our body. Severely ill individuals are more susceptible to other diseases including corona virus disease. Amid this pandemic the use of a one-time plastic cup puts us at a greater risk of various complex diseases.

The use of plastic cups has an environmental issue too. It is polluting our environment by creating waste material that is not decomposable. It takes 200 to 300 years to decompose, thus it is constantly harming the environment as well as human health.

From the above discussion, we imagine that using a one-time plastic cup is not safe for our health at all. It is high time to reduce the use of plastic cups. And the best solution to this problem is to use earthen cups or glass cups or steel cups for drinking tea/coffee to avoid plastic and paper cups outside your house. Also, you can raise awareness among common people and shopkeepers at tea stalls. In this way, you can reduce the use of a plastic cup. Let’s try to avoid one-time plastic cup to lead a healthy life.

(Writer MS Student in the Department of Applied Nutrition and Food Technology under the Faculty of Biological Science in the Islamic University, Bangladesh. He can be reached at billalanftiu@gmail.com)

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