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The Harmful Effects of Plastic on Human Health

Harmful Effects of Plastic

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Sanjay Sachdeva
Director
Intelligent Ageing

It was a sad day for me when a patient from north Delhi walked into our clinic with symptoms of lung and stomach infection, frequent stomach aches, loose motions and distension. We tried every possible investigation only to discover after 3 months of failures that he has cancer of the stomach. Unfortunately by the time stomach cancer is detected it is already too late to save the patient.

Since I was so intrigued by the mystery surrounding his symptoms I requested the family to investigate the cause of his cancer and to allow multiple examinations only to find out excess of Bisphenol in his blood stream.

That if I can conclude may have been the cause of his cancer.

In October 2015 researchers from the Alfred Wagner institute announced that they had discovered plastic in a completely pristine environment of arctic ocean and now we hear that 40 % of the worlds ocean surfaces are laced with plastic and will still be visible and recognizable even hundreds of years from today, the worst part is that when broken down into small pieces they become granulated to micro levels less than 3-4 mm and are called micro plastics. We never thought that plastic bottles, straws, plastic cutlery, and glasses we drink coffee and tea from lasts for up to 400 years on this earth.
Recently I received a whats app message about some tests done in Calcutta about a recent trial done on water it was found that tap water is safer and healthier to drink than mineral water from plastic bottles.
100% of the top mineral water tested had traces of plastic in them.

94% of the US Tap water contains plastic and almost 86% in India.

Plastic has today penetrated human life human anatomy and our blood stream.

The tragedy is that our government has no norms to measure or control a safe threshold for plastic in water and food.

Most of the food we consume is packaged in plastic bags, plastic containers and the water we drink is mostly packaged in bottles made of plastic.

Exposed to the sun and with the temperatures in India hitting 48-50 degrees in the summer even after 15 minutes the micro granules start shedding plastic toxins in the water.

There are no studies yet to confirm the nano plastic particles that have entered our body and are causing untold harm to us.

Why people are ditching plastic straws

UK pub chain has just announced that it will stop using plastic straws across its 900 pubs by the end of the year. Most straws today are made from a plastic called polypropylene to which colorants and plasticizers are added. Americans alone use an estimated 500 million straws every day, well above one daily for each of the country’s nearly 320 million residents.

In my personal quest to analyze every man-made chemical in my body I started to explore what science does studies in toxicology and discovered that there is a science called bio monitoring, which is slowly helping us understand what our chemical filled world is doing to us.
The first US national report on human exposure to environmental chemicals, produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), in Atlanta, Georgia, has shown surprisingly high levels of phthalates (plastic compounds found in cosmetics and household products) in the blood and urine of subject. It seems that these chemicals may be absorbed through the skin.

Our Bodies Are Becoming Plastic

Mismanaged waste is particularly problematic in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, which together make up the top five countries for plastic pollution.

Today, the planet is awash in products spawned by the plastics industry. Residues of plastics have become ubiquitous in the environment- and in our bodies.

Plastics getting to Humans Impacting Health

Different plastics spread throughout the ocean. As Styrofoam breaks into smaller parts, polystyrene components in it sink lower in the ocean, so that the pollutant spreads throughout the sea column. Chemicals are ingested by animals in the ocean; this is not good for humans. We as humans ingest contaminated fish and mammals. Other toxins in plastics are directly linked to cancers, birth defects, immune system problems, and childhood developmental issues.

Other types of toxic plastics are BPA or health-bisphenol-A, along with phthalates. Both of these are of great concern to human health. BPA is used in many things including plastic bottles and food packaging materials.

Precautions, What Can We Do?

Choose Plastic bottles carefully, Plastic bottles have a recycling code at the bottom of the bottle that looks like a triangular arrow around a number. Avoid these numbers: 3, 6 and 7. Plastics especially with the Number 7 contain BPA.

One should not microwave food or drinks in plastic containers—even if they claim to be “microwave safe.” Heat can break down plastics and release chemical additives into your food and drink. Microwaves heat unevenly, creating hot spots where the plastic is more likely to break down.

So what do we do to protect ourselves from turning into plastic bodies?

For protecting yourself from contamination, it is probably best not to have a diet that consists mainly of fish, since most is probably contaminated.

Avoid plastic bags (including for snacks and food storage) Avoid disposable straws (reusable straws made from stainless steel, bamboo and even glass are widely available)
Wash synthetic clothes less frequently and when you do use a gentle cycle to reduce the number of fibers released; consider using products that catch laundry fibers in your washing machine. Choose a non-plastic toothbrush made from bamboo, flax or even recycled dollar bills.
Avoid disposable plastic bottles; bring your own reusable bottle instead. Use minimal carpet and drapery. “Carpet can be a reservoir for all sorts of particles. Use a HFPA filter on your vacuum to keep captured particles from escaping back into the air.

One of the most effective things we could all do as members of this fragile ecosystem is to be responsible for our trash. The average person produces half a pound of plastic waste every day. No wonder the oceans are filling up with waste. The India government also needs to make regulations on plastics if anything is going to change. Surprisingly, there is little to no information on governmental websites about pollution in the oceans.

When plastic was first mass produced, the report found 2m Tones were manufactured. That figure has risen to 8.3bn tons in 2017 and is projected to reach 34bn by 2050.

We appear to be drinking and probably eating micro plastics all the time. Micro plastics have also been shown to attract microbial pathogens. “Further,” as the review puts is, “there is evidence that particles may even cross the gut wall and be translocated to other body tissues, with unknown consequences”.

How Do We Test for the Presence of Plastic in Our Blood

Diagnostic Tests for BPA detection in Humans

This test is not commonly available in all clinics.

  1. Genova Diagnostics in USA provides testing of Bisphenol A (BPA) from Urine sample. They do a combined urine test for endocrine disrupters from cosmetic / consumer products. These are BPA / Triclosan / 4- Nonylphenol.
    While BPA is found in plastic bottles, dinner wares etc, Triclosan is found in deodorants, toothpastes, Shaving creams. 4 Nonylphenols are found in detergents and pesticides. Requirement: First morning, 12 ml refrigerated urine.
  2. NMS Labs is a clinical laboratory offering Bisphenol-A (BPA) testing in urine in USA. They also carry out BPA tests with blood/ plasma and serum samples.
  3. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in USA, undertakes a comprehensive biomonitoring program under Centre od Disease Control (CDC): NHANES reports on several chemicals associated with the use or production of plastics, including bisphenol A, phthalates, styrene, acrylamide, triclosan and brominated flame retardants, and their concentrations in the general population.
  4. Springer Institute, have developed Detox Me™ Action Kit is an easy and non-invasive urine test that detects the presence of 10 common household toxics in your body. Bisphenol A and S are included in the test kit.
  5. Nordic Laboratories in UK provide BPA profile tests using urine samples.
  6. A few labs in India are testing for BPA and other plastic residues.

Detoxing BPA from the Body

While I did not come across any medication to detoxify harmful chemicals from the body, I found many articles showing ways in which one can get rid of BPA from the body naturally.

  • Indian Gooseberry (also called Phyllanthus emblica Linn and Indian amla)
    In studies in the Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology and Food and Function, the gooseberry/amla, an ingredient in some detox preparations, has been shown to be effective in preventing and lessening the toxic effects of chemicals in the body.
    The “hepatoprotective” actions of gooseberry/amla appear to be “mediated by its free radical scavenging, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and modulation of the xenobiotic detoxification process and lipid metabolism,” says the Food and Function study.
  • Chlorella
    Chlorella, a single-cell green algae belonging to the phylum Chlorophyta plant, has long been thought to have beneficial effects in the human body — whether against inflammation or disease risks. A recent study in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology confirms chlorella’s ability to detoxify heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
  • Cilantro (also called Coriander)
    Several studies have demonstrated that the well-known cooking herb cilantro, also called coriander, can be useful in reducing liver toxicity — called hepatotoxicity — by inhibiting undesirable oxidation processes.
  • Intestinal Treatments
    Colonic cleansing routines, to cleanse the gut, health practitioners also recommend cascara sagrada, burdock root, psyllium husks and other fiber containing plants.
  • Activated Charcoal
    Activated charcoal is a form of carbon that has massive surface area and a strong negative charge. It’s been around for thousands of years and it’s still used in emergency rooms today to treat poisoning.

Charcoal binds to chemicals whose molecules have positive charges, including aflatoxin and other polar mycotoxins, BPA, and common pesticides. Once the chemicals attach to the charcoal one can pass them out normally.

Regular sweating and exercising gets rid of harmful chemicals and minerals from the body.

The objective of this write up is only to raise awareness of the harm that plastics are causing to our bodies and what preventive steps can we take to protect ourselves from dying due to plasticizing ourselves.

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