Medi-snippets: Toxic chemicals from plastics has serious health implications | Sunday Observer

Medi-snippets: Toxic chemicals from plastics has serious health implications

11 August, 2019

Health officials have welcomed last week’s announcement by the State Mahaweli Development and Environment Minister Ajith Mannapperuma that the plastic wrap used around the lid of plastic water bottles will soon be banned.

“It is a welcome move and a step in the right direction”, Emeritus Prof. Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, University of Colombo and Senior Prof Forensic Medicine, General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, Dr Ravindra Fernando, told the Sunday Observer. He said polythene was one of the most commonly produced plastics worldwide, with millions of tons produced every year. It is produced by linking ethylene molecules to a larger molecule that has a branched chain structure. It is commonly used in food packaging materials.

“What the public does not realise is that plastic affects human health with significant adverse impacts. Toxic chemicals leach out of plastic and are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments,” he said.

Explaining further he said, the toxic chemical in polythene that is at the forefront of everyone’s mind at present is Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a known hormone disruptor that leaches up to 55 times the rate when heated, (something which is frequently done with baby bottles). Even when not heated, this harmful chemical migrates into food and drink simply through normal use, scratched and old plastics that contain BPA are particularly big leaches of the chemical. Studies have linked low-dose BPA exposure with such effects as permanent changes to genital tract; increase in prostate weight; decline in testosterone; breast cells predisposed to cancer; prostate cells more sensitive to hormones and cancer; attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders; early onset of puberty in girls and obesity.

Avoid exposure to contaminated water to prevent Filaria, Lymphodema

Heavy rains resulting in pools of muddy contaminated water in all parts of the country, have prompted the Anti Filaria Campaign (AFC) to warn the public on the possibility of those who have a tendency to wade through this contaminated water pools to develop swelling of the feet and new cases of filaria emerging. AFC Medical Officer Dr Dayan Kulatilaka told the Sunday Observer that while Sri Lanka had now been recognised as one of the few Asian countries which had eliminated filarial, the goal was to eliminate it totally by 2021, and the Campaign had already set in motion several new intervention measures to that end. “However, we are disturbed by the fact that some new cases have begun to emerge in certain coastal areas such as the Galle district,” he said. “Whereas in Colombo we see just 2-3 patients per six months, in the Galle district , 4-5 cases have been reported, for the same period.”

To arrest this rising trend with immediate intervention, he said the AFC had recruited 150 new Public Health Officers who visit homes in high risk areas and obtain blood samples from the residents at night from 8.30 p.m. -11 p.m . “We are also conducting awareness raising and treatment clinics in every district with special focus on the coastal belt from Puttalam to Hambantota where the Culex mosquito is widely found.” He said the number of patients being treated for Lymphodema, a permanent swelling of the lower limbs, was also on the rise .

Unhygienic food, drinking water can lead to water borne diseases following rains- health officials warn

With reports of heavy flooding in certain districts of the country both urban and rural, health officials have warned of a possible rise in the spread of infectious water borne diseases, and urged the public to be vigilant.

Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr Sanjeewa Aryasingha from the Colombo South Teaching Hospital told the Sunday Observer that some of the common types of viral Hepatitis A and E were spread by ingesting food or water that has been contaminated by an infected person. ( faeco -oral route). Noting that Viral Hepatitis is a notifiable disease, he said the main organ affected by the disease is the liver. Symptoms to look for in the early onset of the disease include, nausea, vomiting, fever, jaundice, upper abdominal pain , dark urine and pale stools.

He said anyone could get the disease through unhygienic food and water, and emphasised the need for access to clean and hygienic food.