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This website provides resources on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as pesticides, dioxins, PCBs, and wastes. Valuable examples of community monitoring of health and environmental impacts of toxic chemicals are also furnished.

Further, there is an entire section devoted to chemical safety in its proper socio-political context or in relation to issues such as globalization and people's empowerment.


Don outlines hazards of plastics

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 Salaam.

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 girls.

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,” he said.

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 and reach
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.

SOURCE: Guardian

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