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It is not news that plastic has infiltrated every part of our lives and is causing tremendous harm to us. While it may seem like a benign material, there are many reasons why various types of plastic are quite harmful to our health. Plastic has a leaching property. This means that small pieces of plastic that are invisible to the naked eye can enter our soil and water. This affects our food and other important parts of our lives. Microplastics are plaguing our lives all the time, so much so that they are even present in the air we breathe.
This issue has become very difficult to control. For our own well-being, it is important to study how plastic affects our health and what the harmful properties of plastics are. Maybe when we become more aware of these, we can take the necessary actions to stop or at least control our plastic consumption.
So one may be slightly aware of the damaging effects of plastics. But would you have guessed that there are bad side effects of all aspects of manufacturing plastic? Each and every step involved in making plastic is hazardous to human health, and the health of the environment in general.
The very first step is the extraction of fossil feedstock. The process of extraction is responsible for the release of toxic substances in our water bodies and also in the air we breathe. These toxins ultimately are the cause of deadly diseases like cancer, neurotoxicity and reproductive disorders. They also cause diseases that result in the impairment of the immune system.
After the process of extraction comes refining. In this refining process, many carcinogenic materials are released into the air, which is inhaled by people working at these refining plants. It is an extremely harmful process. Not only are these cancer-causing toxins, but they also cause impairments in the nervous system, developmental issues, reproductive disorders, leukemia, genetic or birth dysfunctions.
Post the refining process, then comes the process of using these plastics created to package things into them. This process leads to consuming or inhaling microplastics, which can cause immense harm in the long run.
When microplastics enter our body, they cause many illnesses like inflammation, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, necrosis, and apoptosis. In more severe cases, they can also cause cancer and chronic autoimmune disorders. Over time, due to more concentration of these plastics in our bodies, more complicated issues can arise.
There are many different types of plastic out there, and they can be simply classified into 7 main categories –
Commonly known as PET, this type of plastic can be most commonly seen as being sold as water bottles and soda bottles. Even ketchup usually comes in a bottle made out of PET. While according to studies it is said to be a food-grade plastic since it has no BPA. But on the flip side when this plastic is exposed to heat, it becomes highly toxic.
Commonly known as HDPE, the most common applications of this plastic are milk and juice bottles. This is basically a hard plastic that is strong and durable and is often used to store hygiene products. This plastic is also often termed as a safe plastic but is known to leach very harmful chemicals. Too much exposure to these chemicals leads to harmful effects on kids and juveniles.
This plastic is also known as PVC and it is a very rigid yet flexible material. This makes it ideal for hardware purposes like plumbing pipes and so on. Other purposes of PVC include plastic containers, shrink wrap, toys for children, and wrappers for medicines. PVC contains DEHP, which can result in male traits becoming feminine. It basically disrupts natural human hormones to a fault.
This is a much thinner plastic that is mostly used for trash bags and bread packers. They are also used as a lining for beverage cups. Even though it has no BPA, it does have harmful estrogenic chemicals.
Most commonly used for making takeaway food containers. Polypropylene, or PP, is harmful too, but not as harmful as the other plastics we have mentioned in this article. But with that being said, it does cause quite a few health issues as well.
Often referred to as Styrofoam, is the common material for making single-use disposable utensils like plates and cups. It leaches styrene which is a well-known carcinogen. Styrene is especially harmful when exposed to heat.
Plastics that don’t fall in any of the above categories go into the last one. These plastics mostly leach BPA or BPS and are very harmful. They cause many different diseases and disorders like mood dysfunctions, sexual disorders, reproductive disorders, and are also known to be endocrine disrupters.
If you want to safeguard yourself from plastic toxicity, just keep these few pointers in mind :
1. Try to avoid the 6th and 7th category of plastics at all cost.
2. Do not put plastic containers in the microwave
3. Avoid using cling film or aluminum foil.
4. Look for BPA-free plastic containers.
5. Look for phthalate-free plastics.
6. Try to avoid food packed in plastics overall.
In conclusion, we understand that escaping from plastic can be difficult. But there are certain steps each one of us can take to control the plastic toxicity in our own bodies.
About Plastic Collectors : Plastic Collectors is a collective of driven people around the world working towards a plastic free society. They encourage people to collect plastic waste around them and send it to their nearest recycling stations. They also provide rewards and remuneration for the collected plastic. Click here to learn more about how you can join the cause.