Can Use of Plastic Lead to Cancer?

In a world racing towards modernisation and mass consumption, we have witnessed revolutions as well as major catastrophes. The geometric rate at which human population has been expanding with our finite resources, along with man’s perennial greed for excess is an indication of where we, as a human race are heading to. Of course, we are in no less than a crisis, but as history shows, we will always find a way to circumvent the situation. But the big question that still looms around the corner is whether our so-called ‘Plan B’ is sustainable in the long run? And what if the short cuts & cheap alternatives are going to be a bane in the long run?

We are living in a time where we are surrounded by potential dangers that are packaged and marketed in such a way, that without knowing we are lured into buying it and end up being in a trap. Imagine a mother waking up everyday to prepare a meal for her kids, that has been cooked with love. But then as a matter of habit, she packs the food in a tiffin box, preferably in the one that her son or daughter had chosen from the supermarket, having the image of his? her favourite superhero. On the outside, this normative routine might seem completely harmless & yet the mother, despite wanting the best for her kid, is oblivious of the danger that she is putting her son/daughter into.

The situation is alarming because this is just a daily scenario that happens in our life and we seem to have almost normalised it. What rarely piques our imagination is the fact that the tiffin & water bottles that are regularly used in most households are made out of fancy, attractive but cheap plastics!

Before we talk about this much debated & controversial idea as to whether plastic can lead to cancer, we must first understand what plastic is. As studies suggest, plastic is the name of a complex compound that is derived from crude oil & natural gas & consists of several other chemicals & compounds like polypropylene, polyethylene, polycarbonate etc. Because of its wide variety of uses, it has been widely used in several sectors. One of the most common uses of plastic is the pipe industry. The plastic compound that is used here is polyvinyl chloride that is used because of its flexibility & durability. This same compound is used to make various pipes, popularly known as PVC pipes that are used for water supply in households as well as big plants. Such products contain the known human carcinogen called vinyl chloride. Studies show that the chemicals in these leach over the years & enter into our water supply, which in turn is responsible for causing reproductive problems in the long run. It’s also commonly associated with liver cancer, particularly liver angiosarcoma & hepatocellular carcinoma.

However, one of the most controversial plastic products that have grabbed our attention in recent years is the product that is most commonly used in containers that store food & in water bottles, is what is known as Bisphenol A or BPA. Products such as food & beverage containers, food & formula can linings, dental sealants etc make use of this compound rampantly. What this chemical does when leached into the food due to heat or otherwise is it disrupts the hormone cycle, most dominantly the oestrogen cycle, making specially women, susceptible to breast cancer. BPA is also likely to affect brain development in the foetus while being in the womb.

Well, of course, the thing to remember here is that as senior oncologist, Dr. Vikash Kumar Agarwal of VCCC rightfully mentions that cancer can happen to anyone, with or without the use of plastics. But the message that is pertinent here is that if we can be more aware of the things that we use in our daily lives, we can potentially ward off cancer in our lives. Most importantly, the battle against cancer begins with developing a consciousness or awareness about the root causes of cancer & try to delimit it’s usage as much as possible, We are aware of the hazardous effect plastics in different forms have caused to our ecosystem and the apocalypse that would be unleashed if we continue to do so. So we must stand united and say NO TO PLASTIC & NO TO CANCER!


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