Nevertheless, plastic is a major threat to our environment, which is already being ravaged by innumerable human activities. If we want our future generations to live on this planet, enjoying its resources, we have to conserve our environment, and shunning plastic is a sure step in that direction.
Chemicals used to produce plastic are toxic and many of its constituents like benzene and vinyl chloride are known to be carcinogenic. Ethylene oxide and xylenes, released during its production can cause birth defects and nervous system disorders, besides weakening the immune system and causing damage to kidneys and blood.
Discarded plastic waste can choke drains, providing breeding ground for disease causing organisms, and floods during heavy rains. Plastic is non biodegradable, but it degrades into smaller and smaller toxic particles in presence of light. These particles pollute soil, water and oceans, wreaking havoc in marine life and entering our systems through food chain.
The Marine Conservation Society, UK has highlighted the increasing danger to marine life from plastic pollution. Discarded plastic causes hardships to about 267 marine species. Can you believe there are about 46,000 pieces of non-degradable plastic in every square mile of the ocean According to the MCS, the plastic on UK beaches has grown by 126 percent since 1994, explaining the deaths of many seabirds, turtles, whales and seals.
The ubiquitous plastic bags, seemingly harmless, are potential killers if swallowed by stray animals. When these bags enter oceans, they become harmful pieces of litter. Mistaking them for food, many marine animals and birds swallow them, and die very painfully.
According to a special section in the Oct 2008 issue of Environmental Research-"A Plastic World", pthalates used in PVC plastics can block the production of male sex hormone testosterone, bisphenol A (BPA) used in poly carbonate plastics can mimic estrogen action and brominated flame retardants used in several kinds of plastics can interfere with thyroid function.
There is more bad news. The convenient plastic water bottles we are so used to, can cause a great deal of damage to our health. William Shotyk, a Canadian scientist working in the University of Hiedelberg, conducted a research involving 132 brands of bottled water from 28 countries, all bottles made from polyethylene terepthalate. He found that the longer water sits in the bottles, concentration of certain chemicals like antimony keeps increasing, as the plastic leaches chemicals. Antimony is a white metallic element that can cause nausea, dizziness and depression in small doses and can be fatal in higher doses. Shotyk said that Antimony is chemically similar to lead and a potentially toxic trace element.
Apart from bottles of general use, baby bottles could be doing a lot of harm to your baby. Baby bottles are made of polycarbonate, a plastic that contains bisphenol A. According to professor Ian Shaw, a Canterbury toxicologist, bisphenol A is an oestrogenic compound, which could lead to premature puberty and breast cancer.
As if this is not bad enough, many children's toys like dolls, teethers, jewellery and bibs have been found to contain lead, cadmium and arsenic. Babies and young children are especially vulnerable as their bodies and minds are still developing. The Ecology Centre, a Michigan based non-profit organisation,