An Era of Plastic Over Kill
How Plastic can directly and indirectly harm your health in a major way!
With over 300 million tons of plastic being produced every year, the world is slowly turning into plastic. Half of this amount, we use only once! This super invention that solved many of mankind’s day to day and even industrial level problems, has now turned into a catastrophic problem of its own. Plastic is present almost everywhere you go. Actually, you don’t even need to go anywhere. It is there in your home, in your bathroom, in your kitchen and most likely it’s on you too! The plastic presence in our world is growing at an alarming rate. Millions of plastic bags have been used in just the last minute.
So what’s the big deal, you ask ? For starters, plastic is poison. Of course the bottled water you just purchased is not poisoned by plastic, at least not yet. A lot of toxic substances and chemical additives go into the manufacturing of plastic. Over an extended period of time the plastic reacts with the air, water and other environmental factors to slowly start releasing these toxins into the environment thus contaminating the water and air around it. This process takes time but that is where plastic’s most lethal property comes into play — Plastic doesn’t decompose easily. It simply breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces over time. A thin water bottle may take up to 1000 years before it decomposes while a milk jug can take up to a million years to decompose! During this time the plastic would have broken down into microscopic particles and contaminated the marine ecosystem.
90% Of All The Garbage You See Floating On The Ocean Surface Is Plastic.
That is just the tip of the iceberg though. The plastic menace runs much deeper, literally down to the ocean floor! Since it takes forever to decompose, most pieces of plastic eventually end up in our waterways. Through offshore ships & platforms, factories, drainage pipes or simply litter on the beach, they all end up in the ocean. On an average, we dump more than 8 million tons of plastic in the ocean every year.
We’ve made all sorts of stuff using plastic such as bags and fishing nets. Marine animals get caught and are often found trapped or strangled in these. Some of these items such as plastic bags, which resemble jelly fish, are often confused for food and consumed by the marine animals such as turtles, often choking them to death. With plastic, we have blood on our hands. Here are some shocking facts:
Hungry For Some Toxic Soup?
Most of the times, the plastic ingested by the marine animals and birds are very small, often microscopic. However, the concentration of toxic pollutant increases as these animals feed upon other contaminated animals. Also, as the plastic slowly drifts over the ocean, it acts as a sponge, attracting and sucking in other environmental pollutants. Some of these pollutants include the deadly toxin DDE, a byproduct of DDT, thereby increasing the contamination and toxic concentration level manifolds.
We humans on the other hand, sitting proudly at the top of the food chain eat these animals and in turn ingest the plastic and the toxins ourselves. If, plastic were to be merely discarded by the body then it would not have concerned us as much. However, the problem is much more severe since scientists have discovered that when plastic breaks down, it releases deadly toxic chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA) and Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP).
BPA, used to make polycarbonate plastic, is an endocrine disruptor and is known to impede hormonal functions. When food placed in these type of plastic containers are heated, BPA leaks out and into the food items. BPA is often used to make water bottles, plates, baby bottles, inside lining of soda & food cans etc. Acidic food such as sauces tend to leach BPA more rapidly. Over the years there has even been an increasing concern linking BPA to breast cancer.
Plastic containers made using PVC contains phthalates, which is also known to obstruct hormonal development. PVC when burnt releases dioxin, a chemical with carcinogenic properties. PVC is commonly used to make plastic food wraps often found in grocery stores and the meat department. Other most common toxins directly released by plastic are lead which is neurotoxic, cadmium which is carcinogenic and mercury. These toxins are often found in fishes which is then passed along the food chain to us humans.
The plastic peril is widespread. Many times we store our food and water in plastic. Other times, small or microscopic plastic pieces are already in our food and water, not to mention the contamination caused by the leaking chemicals from the plastic. Through our clothes, food, work space and most day to day activities, our bodies are constantly in contact with plastic. Here are some hard facts to chew on:
- Our body absorbs the chemicals released as plastic breaks down. Over 90% of adults in the United States have tested positive for BPA.
- The chemical additives used to produce plastic are known to be carcinogenic and act as endocrine disruptors.
- BPA, a known carcinogenic, also negatively affects hormonal activities, sexual maturity, reproduction, obesity, hyperthyroidism etc
- Studies now link BPA, often present in baby products, to cardiovascular problems in children and adolescents.
- Some of the chemicals in plastic can cause dermatitis leading to eyes, nose and throat irritation.
- Polystyrene which is present in egg cartons, food containers, meat trays etc is known to be neurotoxic and affects the reproductive system.
So What Can You Do?
It is estimated that about 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are present in our oceans. 500 billion single use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. Plastic is undoubtedly the biggest player out there when it comes to polluting our planet. The plastic problem is not limited to a few individuals or a select few countries. It is a global crisis that affects each and every one of us. All our landfills are full of it. Our beaches are littered by it. It is not just an eyesore but also a health hazard. Only if all the nations agree and work together can this colossal error of an invention of our industrial age be resolved.
About 80% Of The Plastic Pollution In The Ocean Comes From The Land
If we can learn one thing from history, it is that people always have the power to make a change. There’re billions of us and it all comes down to the individual. Here’s a few things you can start doing right away to fight this parasitic plastic:
The health of our planet is directly linked to the health of our body. This is one of the primary reasons I decided to take initiative and start Clean The Beach Bootcamp (CBBC), a free bi-monthly program where we focus on the health and fitness of our body as well as do our part to save the planet. Here, a series of structured physical exercises is followed up by picking up and clearing litter, mostly plastic, on the beach.
CBBC first started a few years ago with just a handful of tourists and a few locals on the beaches of Phuket, Thailand. Soon, the effectiveness of CBBC and concern for the environment started attracting more people from around the world. The positive impact it had on both the health and conscience of the participants, has helped CBBC now become a worldwide movement. Learn more about it here and join the CBBC family for a healthy body and a green planet.