The number of people suffering from kidney and throat ailments, cancer and infertility has been increasing in North Coastal Andhra Pradesh. The rise in such cases is attributed largely to people eating hot foods carried in plastic bags.
Everyday, hundreds of patients affected by polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene and polystyrene because of eating hot foods carried in plastic bags are visiting King George Government Hospital (KGH) here.
These patients are from towns, villages and even tribal areas of the North Coastal districts of AP and neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Odisha states.
“In the last two years, the number of patients suffering from kidney and throat cancer and infertility has been increased markedly at the KGH, said hospital superintendent Dr M Madhusudan Babu. The patients had been consuming tea, coffee, milk, rice and curries carried in plastic bags.
Plastic poses serious environmental problem. The plastic bags used for packing food are very dangerous as they contain polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, he said.
“If a person eats food items carried in plastic bags for a long period, he or she is very likely to get serious health problems,” he said, adding thousands of patients affected by polyvinyl chloride come to the hospital for treatment regularly.
The prolific use of plastic bags in our daily life has also led to environmental hazards as plastic bags are not biodegradable, he said. When hot food is packed in plastic, chemical exchange between plastic and food is maximised by high temperature and the nature of the food, he said.
Certain plastic bags may cause chemical filtration into the food. Those chemicals include styrene and bisphenol- A which can cause cancer, heart diseases and reproductive problems.
Toxins could migrate from the plastic to the substances they hold. The most common food interactions are the migration of low molecular weight substances such as stabilisers, plasticisers, antioxidants and monomers from plastic packing materials, he said.
He said water in plastic containers is also unfit for human consumption because the containers are usually exposed to direct sunlight when they are loaded onto trucks.
“The Government has to take steps to control the problem and conduct awareness programmes against the use of plastic bags for food items,” he said.