Plastic behind rise in cancer: NIT expert


Kozhikode: Beware when lip smacking food is delivered home in hot plastic containers or enveloped with plastic coated packing materials. Now, experts, in the wake of increasing cancer cases and periodical observations strongly believe that the practice is highly carcinogenic.
“Besides the hefty bill, the food delivered will also carry a slew of carcinogenic substances,” says Lisa Sreejith, associate professor, department of chemistry, National Institute of Technology Kozhikode. The increase in the incidence of colon cancer cases in the state is a sign of the danger lurking behind the changing eating habits of people in the state, she said.
She said that the data available from four medical colleges in the state showed that the number of colon cancer cases reported showed an alarming increase and many of the doctors pointed out that plastic could be one of the main reasons for it. In the case of Kozhikode medical college, around 50 per cent of the cancer cases that were reported belonged to the colon cancer category, she said.
On how plastic is the villain of the piece, she explained that when hot food is served in a plastic material a reaction takes place producing two carcinogenic materials, dioxins and furans. So anything served at 40 degree or above in plastic materials produce these deadly chemicals and regular use of such plastics is a sure invitation to cancer, she said. Dioxins and furans are also known to cause growth defects besides affecting DNA, immune and reproductive systems.    
The role of plastics is also suspected to be behind the cancer related to lungs, Lisa Sreejith said. The increasing cases of lung cancer especially amongst plumbers are suspected to be caused by the inhaling of toxic fumes produced at the time of burning PVC materials. “We have often seen that plumbers burn PVC pipes for sticking two joints or bends”, she said.
“I came across these findings during a one-year research to find safe methods in tackling the mounting plastic wastes”, she said. Health hazards such as incidents of cancer were conveyed to me by doctors during the course of the investigation”, she said.
“Many plastic materials advertised as safe for handling food have also been found not safe during our examination”, she said, and added that the only way is by avoiding plastic materials as much as possible and then finding a safe way to handle plastic wastes.

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