KOCHI: It’s that time of the year when heated discussions on the type, colour, brand and themes of school merchandise happen at all homes with school-going children. If parents vouch for quality, kids find attractive motifs and brand an important factor. But, with many schools directing their students to shun plastic and buy only steel water bottles and tiffins, parents might get some respite from the pestering for a cartoon or action hero-themed plastic ones.
According to Dr Vijay Kumar, father of a kindergarten student, many schools have decided to ban plastic bottles and tiffins due to health reasons. “Studies have proven that plastic containers should not be used to store food items. Most of the containers available in the market are not of food grade. But, people, in their ignorance, buy them. When we say plastic is bad for nature, we forget that it is bad for us too. So, this move by the schools, though a few, to ask their students to get steel containers to bring their food and drink is laudable,” he said.
But why are plastic containers not healthy? Because they are a product of a chemical process, said an expert. “A plastic bottle is made of polyethene terephthalate obtained from petroleum hydrocarbons. Harmful substances like fluoride, arsenic and aluminium get leached into the food or drink stored in containers made of plastics. These chemicals are harmful and will steadily deteriorate your health,” said the expert.
According to the expert, it has been said one should not drink water that has been left in a plastic bottle exposed to direct sunlight. “When plastic is exposed to heat they tend to melt. Heat releases a chemical toxin called dioxin which when consumed might lead to breast cancer,” said Diya Varghese, a researcher.
Besides, there will be a host of health problems like obesity, diabetes, fertility problems, behavioural issues and also early puberty in girls.
“The manufacturers also use harmful colours to make their products eye-catching. Unknowingly, we, who take all precautions when it comes to taking care of the health and well-being of our children, are slowly poisoning them by packing their food and drink in plastic containers,” said Susan Varghese, a teacher. She has been buying steel tiffin and water bottles for her children from the time they started their schooling.
She said, “During my school days, I remember carrying water and food in steel containers. Well, the matter of affordability was also an issue.” Thankamma Mohan, a retired teacher, said, “Kids in the past didn’t have issues like early puberty, obesity and other issues. Today, problems like cancer and neuro-related ailments are increasing due to our dependence on plastic containers to store food. You come across people using soft drinks bottles, that should be disposed of off once it is empty, to carry potable water. Well, many even pour boiling hot water into these bottles Unknowingly we are killing our kids, besides our environment, said the teacher.