Published:  12:15 AM, 13 November 2020

Excessive use of plastics threatens the environment and public health

Excessive use of plastics threatens the environment and public health
Plastic products have become a serious threat to the environment and public health. These include soft drink bottles, cosmetics wrappers, polythene bags etc. After use, these things are dumped in different water bodies and everywhere, so later it is flowing into the Bay of Bengal. As a result, it is becoming a serious threat to the environment and public health day by day.

Nowadays plastic is not just confined to furniture or polythene but has become a daily necessity. And the presence of tiny plastic particles called microbeads is seen in these products. Which after use is falling into rivers, canals, beels and other water bodies and entering the human body through fish.

According to the UN Environment, more than 7 million tons of plastic fall into the sea every year. Which is becoming the food of marine fish and that fish is entering the human body effortlessly. According to US statistics, 33.6 million tons of plastic waste is being generated, of which only 6.5 percent is recycled and 7.8 percent is burned and used in the energy sector. The remaining 85.7 percent of plastic waste is being dumped in garbage dumps, which take about a thousand years to digest.

Frank Kelly, director of the Environmental Research Group at King's College London, and Annie Marie Mahon of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Dublin, think the plastics have potential health risks. Microplastics can gradually affect human health by entering the food cycle, according to the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology.

Plastics are indirectly responsible for thyroid problems, cancer, skin diseases and kidney diseases. The use of various harmful chemicals in the manufacture of plastics has been proven. These chemicals can cause cancer. It can damage the human nervous system, lungs and reproductive organs. Plastic can destroy cells. It is not impossible for harmful bacteria to get into the human stomach with plastic.

Moreover, the use of one-time plastic tea cups has spread across the country from urban to rural areas due to the outbreak of the epidemic corona. This has increased the risk to public health and the environment. In this situation, there is a demand to stop the use of plastic cups. It is important to stop the use of this indigestible prosthetic material and take initiative to protect the country, nation and culture by using earthen cups.

According to the experts, drinking tea in a clay cup does not harm the body. But drinking hot drinks in plastic cups is absolutely not right. Multiple chemicals in the plastic body start to heat up after coming in contact with the heat. These chemicals in the drink are harmful to the body.

These chemicals also increase the risk of cancer. On the other hand, there is no danger of drinking tea in a clay cup. So we can safely drink tea in a clay cup.

The United Nations Department of the Environment estimates that Bangladesh's major rivers, such as the Brahmaputra, Meghna and Ganges, discharge about 73,000 tons of plastic into the sea each year. Disposable plastics are plastics that cannot be reused. These include plastic bags, beverage straws, bottles, cotton-buds, food packaging, coffee strainers and more.

Also land cultivation is being hampered as a result of dumping of various plastics. Toxic plastics are emitting toxic chemicals that then reach the groundwater source through the soil. Besides, wastes like polythene bags, packets of chips, mini packs, plastic bottles etc are spreading in rivers, canals and beels due to lack of proper storage. The city's drains are filling up, resulting in terrible waterlogging with little rain.

Every year during the monsoon season, Dhaka city, Chittagong city and other big cities are experiencing waterlogging - one of the main reasons being polythene bags and plastic wrappers. Lack of awareness about our environment and lack of proper waste management is disrupting public life every monsoon.

Not only the fauna, but also the seabirds are facing a serious threat due to plastic waste. Birds take plastic as food because they can't compare it with plastic floating in the sea and fish. In a 2004 study, researchers reported that the "sea gill" contained 30 pieces of plastic in its stomach. Birds emit toxic chemical polychlorinated biophenols in their stomachs when they ingest plastic. As a result, their body tissues are destroyed and their immune system is weakened. Gradually the bird dies.

In 1988, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 700,000 sq km of the North Pacific Ocean was covered with plastic mountains, known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." According to research published in the Journal of Scientific Reports, the pile of plastic floating in the ocean is larger than the combined size of France, Germany and Spain. According to this report, the garbage dump is floating in the sea with at least 79,000 tons of plastic. At present, the plastic floating mound is spread over an area of 1.6 million square kilometers in the ocean and is growing steadily.

Plastic has a devastating effect not only on the environment, but also on humans. Some chemicals emitted from plastics are a threat to human health. These include bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalate etc. The use of such plastics in water bottles or food containers has resulted in them being absorbed into food and entering the human body.

In addition, toxic plastic particles are entering the food of fish and other animals due to excessive plastic contamination, which in turn enters the human body through the food chain. BPA is a major barrier to sperm and egg production which can lead to pregnancy problems. At the same time it makes the secretion of various hormones in the body irregular. It also plays a major role in breast cancer, heart disease and congenital malformations. Repeated use can also accumulate bacteria in plastic bottles which can cause many kinds of harmful diseases.

Plastic pollution is poisoning the country's rivers, oceans and land, damaging marine life and adversely affecting public health. In Bangladesh, the government enacted a law in 2002 banning the use of polythene bags. Not only polythene is prohibited, but all types of plastics should be emphasized on waste management. Otherwise, in the near future, the results will be fatal.
The writer is a student , Department of Environmental Science & Engineering of Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh.

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