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Wednesday May 29, 2024

World Earth Day: Use of polythene bags unchecked in Punjab cities

By Nadeem Shah
April 23, 2024
This representational image shows polythene bags. — Unsplash/File
This representational image shows polythene bags. — Unsplash/File

MULTAN: Polythene bags have disastrous effects on ecosystem and human health, but still they are being used without any check in South Punjab.

The theme of Earth Day that was commemorated on April 22, 2024, was ‘Planet vs Plastics’.The event called for mitigating use of plastics for the sake of human and planetary health and its reduction is expected up to 60 percent by 2040.

Plastic is a broad category of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials made from polymers and polythene is a specific type of plastic that is made from repeating units of ethylene, a hydrocarbon.

There are big stores on Bosan Road in Multan where jute bags were for sale instead of plastic ones. The store owners used jute bags when the Punjab Environment Protection Department campaign against plastic bags was at its peak, but after the campaign the stores administration resorted to plastic bags.

According to Punjab Environment Protection Department officials, plastic is hazardous in any way as it is non-biodegradable and can contain toxic chemicals that seep into the soil, water, plants, and animals. They say these chemicals can cause health problems such as cancer, endocrine disruption, and reproductive, growth, and cognitive impairment.

They say plastic can also contaminate ingredients that are necessary for survival, and contribute to the most destructive industries on Earth.

Environmentalists say polythene bags block drainage systems, rivers, and streams, leading to contaminated water supplies and diseases like malaria, dengue, and filariasis. They also pollute soil and oceans as they release toxic gasses when plastic is set on fire.

Doctors of medicines have a considered opinion that general practitioners say the polythene bags also contribute to the promotion of health problems, particularly children exposed to chemicals from plastic bags may develop asthma, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance, which can contribute to childhood obesity, diabetes, kidney problems, and heart complications.

Assistant Professor at Nishtar hospital medicine ward Dr Sheikh Abdul Khaliq say that polyethylene is the most common type of consumer plastic. This durable plastic is not biodegradable and may pose health and pregnancy risks. The polythene products can cause mild dermatitis, burning sensation in eyes, dryness and irritation in nose, throat, itching and irritation of the skin, asthma, hormone disruption that may cause reproductive problems, he maintained.

The risk under intended use conditions can cause health problems if it comes into contact with the eyes, skin, or respiratory system. For example, contact with fine dusts and heated fumes can cause eye irritation, skin irritation, respiratory irritation, burning sensation in eyes, and dryness and irritation in nose and throat, he said.

Veterinary experts say it causes animal deaths and it is observed in many cases of animal deaths that polythene bags are killing animals each year. Veterinary doctor Sarmad Ali says that animals can be harmed by polyethylene in a number of ways, including that animals can eat plastic, which can cause internal injuries, intestinal blockages, starvation, and even death. Plastic can also block digestive tracts, pierce internal organs, or make animals feel full, which can lead to starvation. Animals can become trapped and injured by plastic and it disrupts habitats, making it hard for some species to live and breed naturally, leading to depletions in populations. Plastic affects all life, from microscopic animals right up the food chain to large predators and even humans, he argued.

However, Multan Waste Management reports say no significant reduction is observed in the hazardous use of plastic bags in the region. The Multan Waste Management Company officials were of the view that polythene bags take up a lot of space in landfills, where they break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate the soil and waterways. They said tons of plastic bags and plastic waste are removed from the drains every week but to no avail. The Multan plastic usage problem was severe, officials said.