Today, if we step out of the house to go for a walk or to grab some groceries, we are bound to see an empty plastic bottle or a Starbucks cup lying around somewhere. It is impossible to escape the clutches of material used extensively for manufacturing the items we use in our day-to-day life.

We see the term ‘single-use plastic’ frequently used across newspapers, social media feeds, and television. It is becoming a regular sight in many countries around the world to hear about some incidents involving single-use plastic regularly.

Which elements constitute single-use plastic?

Single-use plastics are plastics that are made primarily from fossil fuel-based chemicals (petrochemicals) and are disposed of after a single-use. They are a blaring example of the throw-away culture prevalent among us.

There are three main hazardous substances in single-use plastic, which cause a major toll on human life, as well the entire ecosystem.

Formaldehyde: It is the most widespread internal pollutant. According to studies, if formaldehyde is present at more than 0.1 PPM (parts per million), it becomes lethal. Formaldehyde is also on the list of substances classified as carcinogenic for the human species.

Phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA): These are industrial chemicals that are components used as plasticizers. BPA is polystyrene commonly found in the plastic films used to store and preserve food. They are toxic in large doses and can increase the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and heart diseases. These harmful substances, unfortunately, are also used in making plastic bottles for infants!

A national health survey was conducted with 5,303 adults (median age 57) who provided urine samples to measure their exposure to phthalates. As participants died over the next decade, researchers tracked their causes of death. The researchers found that phthalate exposure was associated with a slightly higher risk of dying from any cause, but particularly cardiovascular disease. ~ Respbuy

Teflon: Teflon is used for hardening the outer layer of the non-stick pots and pans we use in our kitchens. After continuous use, this Teflon layer starts to deteriorate and eventually finds its way into the food we consume.

How are plastic plates harmful?

Plastic plates and bowls hold an important place in modern 21st-century households, especially where people live with glass and fine china-set breaking young children. Let’s face it; they make life easier – they are unbreakable, lighter, and cheaper than regular ceramic plates, plus easier to clean! But unlike ceramics, plastic plates can be a threat to our health, to the extent that their risks can outweigh their benefits.

Plastic plates are usually made of two main chemicals – polystyrene and melamine. These are assumed safe if consumed in small quantities. But how much of that quantity is safe for us? Who will define it?

According to a study conducted in 2013, published in the JAMA, Internal Medicine Magazine, warm/hot food absorbs harmful chemicals from them when it comes in contact with melamine or polystyrene. The study showed how six persons who consumed hot soup from a ceramic bowl had no melamine in their urine.

At the same time, the people who ate in a plastic bowl had high levels of the chemical in their urine. The consequences of long-term melamine exposure can be of concern. This is a perfect example of how plastic plates can be a threat to our health, and that threat usually goes unnoticed.

Another way by which these harmful substances can reach our body through plastics are:

Chemicals leach into food by coming in contact with food packaging.
Microplastics enter our bodies through plastic bottles which we use for drinking water.

Apart from the adverse effect on human health, plastic utensils can also pose disastrous environmental threats. Aquatic animals like seals, whales, turtles are at maximum risk due to the large amount of plastic waste that makes its way into the oceans and seas.

While it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate the use of plastic plates and exposure to plastic chemicals, there are some steps that we can take to reduce the threat of plastic plates to our health.

Eliminating plastic utensils, using eco-friendly options like ceramics instead.

Simply following the 3R rule – reduce, reuse, recycle.

Finding alternative solutions to food delivery packaging, which are heavily dependent upon plastic.

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