IPP - Guardian Tanzania
February 2, 2004
By Lwaga Mwambande
Some plastic products, including plastic bags and toys, are not
only hazardous to the environment, but can cause even greater
damages like infertility and stagnant growth in children.
This is according to the Chairman of Agenda for Environment and
Responsible Development (AGENDA), Prof. Jamidu Katima, when speaking
at a one-day stakeholders meeting at the University of Dar es
He said disposal of plastics by burning led to production of
dangerous toxins called dioxin that interferes with hormone function
and causes infertility in men and causes early puberty in some
Prof. Katima gave examples of young Danes among whom exceptionally
low sperm counts were reported compared to previous generations,
saying also that testicular cancer increased by 55 per cent between
1979 and 1991 in England.
He said fewer boys are being borne in Seveso, Italy where toxic
dioxin was released.“Chemicals like lead used in the production
of plastics also impacts intelligence. Burning plastics in particular
cause allergic epidemic such as asthma and cases of contact allergies
are increasing,” he said. On children, Prof. Katima explained
that the seemingly safe consumer items like plastic toys and teddy
bears can lead to impaired mental development and growth retardation.
“Many soft and chewable toys, chemical pacifiers, teethers
and even baby bottles are made of recycled polyvinyl chloride
(PVC). This material contains a group chemical called phthalates,
which are confirmed growth retardants,” he said.
He cautioned parents and guardians that the softest and most
chewable toys could be the most poisonous and toxic.Plastics become
toxic because of additives or modifiers being added in order to
get colours, foaming agents and providing them with physical properties
like flexibility as teethers and toys.
“Although additives help to give the plastic the desired
physical properties, they are dangerous…as they are typically
poorly bonded with the polymers and tend to leach out,”
Polymers, or many parts, are a long chain of molecules made of
repeating parts - that form the basic building materials of all
plastics.Additives reach the human body when chewing on a teether
or allowing food to come in touch with some plastics or burn them.“Given
this heady cocktail of chemicals that goes into making a simple
plastic bag, disposing it in fields or rivers and streams means
that these chemicals will be released slowly into the soil, water
into the food cycle,” he said.
Dr Enock Masanja from the UDSM’s Chemical and Process Engineering
Department said plastics have made today’s packaging 80
per cent lighter than 20 years ago and is there to stay.
However, in order to minimise plastic waste in the country, Dr
Masanja underscored the need to adopt four concepts that include
reduction in use, reuse, recovery and recycling.
Participants to the workshop organised by Agenda met in order
to set strategies for management of plastic waste.
They were from non-governmental organizations, government departments
and international organizations.
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