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Toxic effects of plastic on human health and environment : A consequences of health risk assessment in Bangladesh

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Plastics are used widely everywhere in our life and without plastic, modern civilization would indeed look very diverse. This study focuses on the toxic effects of plastic on human health and environment and possible consequences of health risk assessment in Bangladesh. Plastics are essential materials in modern civilization, and many products manufactured from plastics and in numerous cases, they promote risks to human health and the environment. Plastics are contained many chemical and hazardous substances such as Bisphenol A (BPA), thalates, antiminitroxide, brominated flame retardants, and poly- fluorinated chemicals etc. which are a serious risk factor for human health and environment. Plastics are being used by Bangladeshi people without knowing the toxic effects of plastic on human health and environment. Different human health problems like irritation in the eye, vision failure, breathing difficulties, respiratory problems, liver dysfunction, cancers, skin diseases, lungs problems, headache, dizziness, birth effect, reproductive, cardiovascular, genotoxic, and gastrointestinal causes for using toxic plastics. Plastics occur serious environment pollution such as soil pollution, water pollution, and air pollution. Application of proper rules and regulations for the production and use of plastics can reduce toxic effects of plastics on human health and environment.
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International Journal of Health, 6 (1) (2018) 1-5
International Journal of Health
Website: www.sciencepubco.com/index.php/IJH
doi: 10.14419/ijh.v6i1.8655
Review paper
Toxic effects of plastic on human health and environment
: A consequences of health risk assessment in Bangladesh
Ram Proshad 1 *, Tapos Kormoker 2, Md. Saiful Islam 1, Mohammad Asadul Haque1,
Md. Mahfuzur Rahman1, Md. Mahabubur Rahman Mithu 3
1 Department of Soil Science, Patuakhali Science and Technology University, Dumki, Patuakhali-8602, Bangladesh
2 Department of Emergency Management, Patuakhali Science and Technology University, Dumki, Patuakhali-8602, Bangladesh
3 Faculty of Nutrition and Food Science, Patuakhali Science and Technology University, Dumki, Patuakhali-8602, Bangladesh
*Corresponding author E-mail: ramproshadpstu03470@gmail.com
Abstract
Plastics are used widely everywhere in our life and without plastic, modern civilization would indeed look very diverse. This study fo-
cuses on the toxic effects of plastic on human health and environment and possible consequences of health risk assessment in Bangladesh.
Plastics are essential materials in modern civilization, and many products manufactured from plastics and in numerous cases, they pro-
mote risks to human health and the environment. Plastics are contained many chemical and hazardous substances such as Bisphenol A
(BPA), thalates, antiminitroxide, brominated flame retardants, and poly- fluorinated chemicals etc. which are a serious risk factor for
human health and environment. Plastics are being used by Bangladeshi people without knowing the toxic effects of plastic on human
health and environment. Different human health problems like irritation in the eye, vision failure, breathing difficulties, respiratory prob-
lems, liver dysfunction, cancers, skin diseases, lungs problems, headache, dizziness, birth effect, reproductive, cardiovascular, genotoxic,
and gastrointestinal causes for using toxic plastics. Plastics occur serious environment pollution such as soil pollution, water pollution,
and air pollution. Application of proper rules and regulations for the production and use of plastics can reduce toxic effects of plastics on
human health and environment.
Keywords: Plastic; Bisphenol A; Phthalates; Pollution; Bangladesh.
1. Introduction
Plastic has changed our everyday life. We are involved with plas-
tic made products in various ways. Plastic plays an important part
in our life. Plastics are used widely everywhere in our life. Plastic
makes our life easier and better. They are composed of a network
of molecular monomers bound together to form macromolecules
of infinite use in human society. Day by day peoples are becoming
more and more dependent on the use of plastics because of the
characteristics of plastic such as inert, durability, flexibility and
versatility and so on. The durability of plastics and their potential
for diverse applications, including widespread use of disposable
items, were anticipated, but the problems associated with waste
management and plastic debris were not (Yarsley & Couzens
1945). Plastic has some special properties such as; high heat com-
bustion, the water content of the plastics is far lower than the wa-
ter content in the biomass, plastics do not absorb much moisture
and increasing availability in the local community. Plastics have
many benefits and without plastic, modern society would indeed
look very different. Most important advantages of plastic are med-
ical uses and applications in public health. Plastics are cost-
effective, require little energy to produce, and are lightweight and
biocompatible. Plastic is soft, transparent, flexible, or biodegrada-
ble and many different types of plastics function as innovative
materials for use in engineered tissues, absorbable sutures, pros-
thetics, and other medical applications (Andrady & Neal 2009).
However, plastics also have numerous disadvantages, such as
toxic substances that may leak out and adversely affect humans
and other organisms. There are about 20 types of prime plastics
use in the worldwide (APME 2006). Scientists have shown in the
study that the use of plastic bottles or containers increases health
risk due to long-term use. Typically, there are many chemical
substances present in plastic bottles or containers, many of which
are a serious risk factor for health. For example, potentially dan-
gerous human exposure to toxic components such as Bisphenol A
(BPA), thalates, antiminitroxide, brominated flame retardants, and
poly-fluorinated chemicals etc. are notable (Halden 2010). BPA
and phthalates are found in many mass-produced products includ-
ing medical devices, food packaging, perfumes, cosmetics, toys,
flooring materials, computers and CDs and can represent a signifi-
cant content of the plastic. For instance, phthalates can constitute a
substantial proportion, by weight, of PVC while BPA is the mon-
omer used for the production of polycarbonate plastics as well as
an additive used for the production of PVC. Phthalates can leach
out of products because they are not chemically bound to the plas-
tic matrix, and they have attracted particular attention because of
their high production volumes and wide usage (Wagner & Oeh-
lmann 2009). Phthalates and BPA are detectable in aquatic envi-
ronments, in dust and, because of their volatility in the air (Rudel
et al. 2001; 2003). There is considerable concern about the adverse
effects of these chemicals on wildlife and humans (Meeker et al.
2009). It may be a great concern to use and disposal of plastic.
Worldwide polymer production was estimated to be 260 million
metric tons per annum in the year 2007 for all polymers including
thermoplastics, thermoset plastics, adhesives, and coatings, but not
synthetic fibers (Plastics Europe 2008). This indicates a historical
2
growth rate of about 9 percent p.a. Thermoplastic resins constitute
around two-thirds of this production and their usage is growing at
about 5 percent globally. Approximately 50 percent of plastics are
used for single-use disposable applications, such as packaging,
agricultural films and disposable consumer items, between 20 and
25 percent for long-term infrastructure such as pipes, cable coat-
ings and structural materials, and the remainder for durable con-
sumer applications with intermediate lifespan, such as in electron-
ic goods, furniture, vehicles, etc. Post-consumer plastic waste
generation across the European Union (EU) was 24.6 million tons
in 2007 (Plastics Europe 2008). The plastic industry in Bangla-
desh uses imported polymer granules. During the period 1989 to
2007, the import of polymers increased from 10,000 tons to
289,000 tons per year. At present total consumption of polymers
including imported polymers and recycled plastic wastes is
750,000 tons in FY 2010-2011. This corresponds to the per capita
consumption of plastics in Bangladesh 5 kg per year against the
world average 30 kg. Per capita consumption in India and ASEAN
countries are 8kg and 17kg respectively. Quite a few decades ago,
Bangladesh was not familiar with the multiple uses of plastics. But
in recent years, particularly its large cities have experienced a
widespread and growing use of plastic products. As a result, Bang-
ladesh is also facing all of the environmental, economic and health
problems caused by plastic pollution. Taking the environmental
issue into account, Bangladesh government imposed a ban on poly
bags on 1st March 2002. But, unfortunately, of late polybag and
other poly products are gradually coming backing in business.
Notwithstanding the current relatively low use of plastic products,
this is an opportune time for policymakers to formulate measures
and for general users to change their habit and choice to environ-
ment-friendly natural fiber products as practical alternatives. Oth-
erwise, the longer we shall wait, the more difficult it will be to
change people's habit.
2. Categories of plastics
2.1. Type 1 polyethylene terephthalate or stomach plas-
tic
Stomach plastic is usually used to make disposable water bottles.
Apart from this, stomach plastics are used to make different uten-
sils or containers used for various types of juice, soft drinks, butter,
salad dressing, vegetable oil, mouthwash, cosmetics etc. The
stomach plastic weight is thin, transparent and smooth. Due to
being fully liquid and anti-inflammatory, the stomach is very pop-
ular among plastic water and another food packaging. Being anti-
air, the stomach plastic prevented the entry of oxygen. Drinking or
liquids are not easily washed inside the stomach bottles. Type 1
plastic bottle does not have any harmful bacteria or thalates, but its
use is used in antimony trioxide. Antimony acts as a possible car-
cinogen in the human body. Antimony is emitted from the con-
tainer for long periods of contact with drinking water. As long as
the beverage is in contact with the container, the likelihood of
antimony excretion increases. It has been found in the study that
the use of long-time heat is toxic antimony from the stomach bot-
tle. So it is vital to keep these stomach bottles away from high
temperatures. Note that type 1 or stomach plastic is prepared for
'once use only' (one time use only). The stomach bottle is relative-
ly safe in the 'once used' field.
2.2. Type 2 High-density polyethylene
Polyethylene is the most used plastic in the world. High-density
polyethylene made from petroleum, a type of heat-resistant plastic.
Type 2 plastic is used in making milk containers, detergent bottles,
refrigerators, toys, various types of plastic grocery bags, etc. High-
density polyethylene is relatively strong, irritable and 'heat-prone'
in nature. It does not contain harmful BPA or thalates. There is no
known health risk for this type of plastic use. Although some stud-
ies have shown, if the sunlight is kept in a long time, then the
nanalifenal is extracted from type 2 plastic to ultraviolet rays.
Compared to type 1, type 2 container is considered safer for food
and drink.
2.3. Type 3 plastic containers
They are used for fruit juice, cooking oil etc. Polyvinyl Chloride
(PVC) is a type of 'heat-resistant' polymer. Depending on non-
plasticization, type 3 plastic is flexible and unobtrusive. Normally
the thalates are used to make PVC flexible, which is harmful to
the human body. Plasticized PVC pipes and siding also have
thalates. PVC contains many toxic chemical substances such as
BPA, thalates, led, dioxin, crater, and cadmium. The whole life
cycle of PVC, production, use and disposable is related to severe
health risks and environmental pollution, due to which PVC use
has reduced considerably. However, because of the cost-effective
and versatile use, PVC is still very popular in the case of consum-
er products. Due to poisonous use of PVC plastic due to health
risk and environmental pollution. It can cause cancer, birth defects,
genetic changes, chronic bronchitis, ulcers, skin diseases, deafness,
vision failure, indigestion, and liver dysfunction.
2.4. Type 4 low-density polyethylene
A type of 'heat-resistant' polymer made of type 4 plastic petroleum,
which can be both transparent and opaque. Low-density polyeth-
ylene is flexible and rigid but fragile. These plastic are used in
packaging of frozen foods and preparation of juices and milk car-
tons. There is no loss of contact with the container or bottled fluid.
Because the type 4 plastic containers do not contain any harmful
components of the human body, their use is safe for food and bev-
erages.
2.5. Type 5 polypropylene
Polypropylene is a type of plastic polymer, usually strong and
semi-transparent, strong, high in heat and hydrophobic. They are
stronger and heavier than polyethylene. Polypropylene is com-
monly used for packing yogurt, medicine, beverage, ketchup etc.
It should be noted here that no harmful substances are found in
food or water from polypropylene plastic. Most polypropylene
plastic is microwaveable and washing with dishwasher, but they
do not cause any harm. Like type 4 plastic, polypropylene con-
tainers are not harmful, they are considered safe for the human
body for food and beverages.
2.6. Type 6 polystyrene
Polyethylene is one type of petroleum-based plastic. 'Benzene' is
used in the preparation of polystyrene, which is known as a car-
cinogen for the human body. Polystyrene is widely used in making
packaging materials and insulating. Styrene is very risky for health.
Studies have shown that, due to long exposure, steroid also pro-
vides neurotoxic, hematological, cytogenetic and carcinogenic
effects. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
identified Styrene as the human carcinogen.
2.7. Type 7 polycarbonate
Except for the type mentioned, all plastics are labeled as Type 7
plastics. Polycarbonate container is made of BPA. So, the bever-
age or food stored in them, the BPA is released from the container.
Due to the BPA's health risk being proven in multiple studies, the
use of type 7 or polycarbonate plastic has recently decreased
greatly. Polycarbonate is basically used for packaging consumer
goods. Type 7 plastic is used in baby bottles, 3 and 5 gallons of
bottles (reusable) etc. Due to health risk type 7 or polycarbonate
plastic use is unsafe.
International Journal of Health
3
3. Effects of plastic on human health
Human health risks from plastics can stem from their monomeric
building blocks (e.g., Bisphenol A), their additives (e.g., plasticiz-
ers) or from a combination of the two (e.g., antimicrobial polycar-
bonate) (Rahman & Brazel 2004). There are several toxic materi-
als which are secreted by plastics. Among them, we concentrate
on plastics components and additives of principal concern such as
Bisphenol A and phthalates. Bisphenol A (BPA) is best known as
the monomeric building block of polycarbonate plastics. It was
first synthesized in 1891 and used frequently as an additive to
other plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) (Dodds & Lawson
1936). The annual output of BPA in the worldwide was 2.2 mil-
lion metric tons in 2003. A sizable fraction of this mass comes
into contact with food. Because the polymerization of BPA leaves
some monomers unbound, BPA molecules can be released from
beverage and food containers into drink and food over time. The
leaching process is accelerated by repeated washing of containers
and when storing in the acidic or basic items that break down the
polymer. As a result, reusable water bottles, baby bottles, and the
inner linings of food cans, all made by using BPA, are known to
leach the controversial monomer into food over time, particularly
at elevated temperatures (Raloff 1999; Kang et al. 2003). Studies
have indicated that food and drinks stored in such containers in-
cluding those ubiquitous clear water bottles hanging from just
about every hiker’s backpack can contain a trace amount of Bi-
sphenol A (BPA) that may interfere with the body’s natural hor-
monal messaging system. Food and inhalation are considered the
main source of exposure to BPA in the human body (Wilson et al.
2007). The BPA is considered to be a hormone because it is the
mimics of reproductive hormones 'estrogen'. As found in various
studies, BPA has been associated with a number of health prob-
lems such as ovarian chromosomal damage, decreased sperm pro-
duction, rapid puberty, rapid changes in immune system, type-2
diabetes, cardiovascular disorder, obesity etc. Some studies have
also claimed that BPA increases the risk of breast cancer, prostate
cancer, pains, metabolic disorders, etc. BPA in women and im-
paired health, including obesity, endometrial hyperplasia, recur-
rent miscarriages, sterility, and polycystic ovarian syndrome
(Warner et al. 2002; Rayner et al. 2004; Eskenazi et al. 2007).
Levels of unconjugated BPA in human blood and tissues are in the
range of 0.1 to 10 μg/L in the human body and is assessed in
blood serum and urine (Ikezuki et al. 2002; Schonfelder et al.
2002). BPA is determined by enzyme-linked immune sorbent
assay (ELISA). Geometric means for daily intake of BPA estimat-
ed from urinary levels are higher for males than females (53.8
versus 41 ng/kg/day) and higher in children and adolescents (64.6
and 71 ng/kg/day, respectively) than in adults, whose exposure
levels decrease with age from 52.9 ng/kg/day in 2039-year olds
to 33.5 ng/kg/day in seniors 60 years and older (Lakind & Naiman
2008). Elevated exposure of women of childbearing age and of
children are of particular concern because of known windows of
vulnerability to BPA that put the developing fetus and children at
elevated risk, compared with adults exposed to identical levels of
the contaminant (Vandenberg et al. 2009).
Fig. 1: Chemical Structures of Bisphenol A and Di-(2-Ethylhexyl)
Phthalate (DEHP), which Illustrate the Use of Endocrine-Disrupting Mon-
omers and Plasticizers in Contemporary Plastics.
In its determination of a reference dose for humans, the U.S. EPA
arrived at a value of 50 μg per kg per day by applying a safety
factor, to account for extrapolation from animals to humans, vari-
ability in the human population, and extrapolation from sub-
chronic to chronic exposures (Welshons et al. 2003). This refer-
ence dose for BPA was calculated on the basis of the lowest ob-
servable adverse effect level (LOAL) as adverse responses were
found even at the lowest dose tested (Vandenberg et al. 2009).
Today’s concerns about BPA are driven primarily by low-dose
effects observed in human populations, and by the recognition that
biologically active levels of BPA detectable in human blood are
within or above the range of concentrations demonstrated in vitro
to cause changes in the function of human tissues (Vom & Hughes
2005). Phthalates are a diverse group of compounds that represent
diesters of phthalic acid, a compound also known as 1, 2-
benzenedicarboxylic acid produced in large quantities since the
1930s. The properties of phthalates are dependent on the length
and branching of the dialkyl or alkyl/aryl side chains, i.e., the
alcohol moiety of the ester. Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP),
produced at annual quantities of 2 million tons and widely used in
medical devices. Important routes of human exposure to
phthalates include, most notably, medical exposures caused by
direct release of phthalates into the human body, e.g., through
dialysis, blood transfusions, and extracorporeal membrane oxy-
genation (ECMO); ingestion of contaminated materials, including
contaminated food, house dust etc. (Sathyanarayana 2008; Kamrin
2009; Meeker et al. 2009). Thalates usually work to increase plas-
tic flexibility or flexibility. Here is an example of adding some
plastic such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) thalates. Thales like BPA
has hormonal imbalances, which also cause them to disrupt hor-
mones normal and daily work. Both BPA and thalates can enter
the body of the newborn through pregnancy and through fetal and
breastfeeding, they will be able to harm them. However, it is im-
portant to remember that, Thales is a little less damaging to human
than the BPA. So all kinds of plastic containers have harmful BPA
and thalates.
Fig. 2: Impact of Plastics on Human Health.
4. Effects of plastic on the environment
The distribution of plastic debris is highly variable as a result of
certain factors such as wind and ocean currents, urban areas, and
trade routes. Human population in certain areas also plays a large
role in this plastics can also be used as vectors for chemical con-
taminants such as persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals
(Barnes et al. 2009). Toxic chemical release during manufacture is
another significant source of the negative environmental impact of
plastics. A whole host of carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and hormone-
disruptive chemicals are standard ingredients and waste products
of plastic production, and they inevitably find their way into our
4
ecology through water, land, and air pollution. Some of the more
familiar compounds include vinyl chloride (in PVC), dioxins (in
PVC), benzene (in polystyrene), phthalates and other plasticizers
(in PVC and others), formaldehyde, and Bisphenol-A, or BPA (in
polycarbonate). Many of these are persistent organic pollutants
(POPs)some of the most damaging toxins on the planet, owing
to a combination of their persistence in the environment and their
high levels of toxicity. Their unmitigated release into the envi-
ronment affects all terrestrial and aquatic life with which they
come into contact. The manufacturing process of plastic products
in plastic industries releases a huge quantity of dangerous gaseous
chemicals into the air including carbon monoxide, dioxin, and
hydrogen cyanide. These gases pollute air seriously. The presence
of these gases in air at high proportion is detrimental to both hu-
man and animal health. They may cause respiratory diseases,
nervous system disorders and reduction in immunity to diseases.
Chlorinated plastic can release harmful chemicals into the sur-
rounding soil, which can then seep into groundwater or other sur-
rounding water sources and also the ecosystem. This can cause
serious harm to the species that drink the water. Landfill areas
contain many different types of plastics. In these landfills, there
are many microorganisms which speed up the biodegradation of
plastics. The microorganisms include bacteria such as Pseudomo-
nas, nylon-eating bacteria, and Flavobacteria. These bacteria break
down nylon through the activity of the nylonase enzyme. When
biodegradable plastics are broken down, methane is released,
which is a very powerful greenhouse gas that contributes signifi-
cantly to global warming (Biello 2013). Apart from the above
impacts, some scientists believe that the bobbing bits of polymer
in the oceans could contribute to global warming by creating a
shaded canopy that makes it harder for plankton to grow. It needs
no telling that the plant kingdom is the universal carbon sink. We
are facing a serious problem of water pollution by plastic waste.
Very often we dispose of discarded plastic products in different
water bodies including lakes, rivers, ponds, etc. The lakes in the
megacity of Dhaka may be the best example of pollution by plas-
tic bottles, canes, bags and other plastic products frequently
thrown by the visitors. The presence of plastic wastes in water
bodies disturbs the natural flow, limits the ability of fish to repro-
duce and destroys helpful organisms.
5. Answerable organizations and rules for re-
ducing plastic toxicity in Bangladesh
The government faces a major challenge for the proper manage-
ment of plastics in Bangladesh. In respect of human health and
environment pollution related concerns, several rules and regula-
tions have been issued and implemented in developing and devel-
oped countries due to control the production and use of plastic
materials. Bangladeshi organizations and agencies are responsible
ensuring the sustainable production, use, and disposal of plastic
and plastic materials like Bangladesh Ministry of Environment
and Forest, Ministry of Health, Mobile court. Bangladesh was the
first country to ban plastic bags to control environmental pollution
and over a decade later several developed countries are still strug-
gling to emulate this achievement. The Environment Conservation
Act was formulated in Bangladesh in 1995. The law of section 1
under this act was reviewed in 2002. According to Rule 6ka of
Clause-5 under Section-9, the constraint has been enacted in the
production and uses of polythene shopping bag. According to the
rule, there is restriction on the production and sale of environmen-
tally detrimental products. If it is proven that any kind of plastic
bags or products made of polyethylene or poly-propylene is detri-
mental for the environment then the government could control or
ban the use of these products to any selected area or all over the
country. According to rule 6ka, the penalty and punishment will
be:
For production, import and marketing 10 years sentence of
vigorous prison, or 1 million taka fine, or both punishments to-
gether.
For sale, exhibition for sale, store, distribution, transportation or
use for commercial purpose 6 months sentence of vigorous pris-
on or 10 thousand taka fine, or both punishments together.
6. Conclusions
Toxicity of plastic is a problem in nature on a universal scale,
from the individual level to the level of populations. The study
reveals that the negative consequences of plastic on human health
and environment as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals used in
the production of plastics. Peoples of Bangladesh unconsciously
used those plastics without knowing its toxicity. The toxic effect
of plastics on human health and environment is very much evident
by the most of the reviews. The government, law implementing
agencies and health authorities of the country should take more
steps and pay attention to sustainable production, use, and disposal
of plastics. Phthalates of high concern should be banned and im-
plemented, primary in consumer products or product in contact
with children. Bisphenols should be forbidden from use in materi-
als that come into contact with food and beverages and children
and in the long term in other consumer products like thermal cash
receipt. Every company must take their responsibility in terms of
the reduction of unnecessary plastic consumption. A full of infor-
mation about all existing chemicals in consumer products must be
required so that peoples becomes aware to use of those products.
Acknowledgement
The authors thank the authority of Patuakhali Science and Tech-
nology University (PSTU), Bangladesh for supporting to complete
this study.
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IntroductionThe Big Picture—Earth and its EnvironmentThe Small Picture—Business EnterprisesValuation of Environmental ResourcesStewardship of the EnvironmentEnvironmental Issues Related to the Plastics Industry: Global ConcernsEnvironmental Issues Related to the Polymer Industry: Local and Regional ConcernsPresent TreatmentAppendix A: Global WarmingAppendix B: Depletion of Stratospheric Ozone
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