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Plastics Toxicity and Pollution Issues

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Plastics are the type of synthetic or semi-synthetic polymer which can moulded to any shape. It is an example of inorganic waste. Plastics are not toxic as such to humans since it is less soluble, but additives like plasticizers are toxic. Plastics though non-toxic cause a great deal of damage to the environment because of their non-biodegradability. This is because most plastics are derived from monomer of propylene and the propylene link formed is extremely strong to be decomposed by bacteria.

It has been found that in marine pollution, 60-95 percent pollution is caused due to plastics itself. Due to the cool temperature and salinity of oceans, polymer degradation is very difficult. Plastics also degrade the soil by making it less fertile and chlorinated plastics release harmful chemicals which can get absorbed into nearby sources of water.

The different types of plastics are:

  1. Polyethylene terephthalate is a thermoplastic polymer that is used to make food and water containers, fibers for clothing etc. It is recyclable.
  2. High Density polyethene is a thermoplastic made from cracking of petroleum. It has high strength to density ratio and is thus used to make plastic bottles, pipes, plastic bags etc. It is recyclable.
  3. Polyvinyl Chloride is a synthetic polymer used to make pipes, window frames, ducts etc. It contains numerous toxins (plasticizers) and is called “poison plastic”. They are recyclable.
  4. Low Density polyethene is a thermoplastic made by free radical polymerization of ethylene at high pressure. It’s commonly used in plastic bags. It is also recyclable.
  5. Polypropylene is formed by chain-growth polymerization of propylene. It is Used to make bottle caps, packaging and labeling etc. It is also recyclable.
  6. Polystyrene is made from polymerizing styrene. It is transparent and rigid. It is used for protective packaging of DVD, CD, tumblers, bottles etc. It is not recyclable.
  7. Miscellaneous plastic are the all the other plastics (polycarbonates, acrylic, styrene, nylon etc. ). They usually contain Bisphenol A (BPA) which is a hormone disruptor used to increase the plastics’ durability. It requires very high temperatures to be broken down and hence is not recyclable.

Plastic pollution real life scenario

Every year about 18 billion pounds of plastic waste goes into the world’s ocean from coastal areas. 40% of the plastic produced is just for packaging purposes. This percent of plastic is only used once and then simply discarded. Only 20 % of plastic is recycled all over the world, even though many countries are taking initiatives to increase this percentage.

The major problem due to plastic is the enter into our food chain and cause damage to our health. Most of this plastic disintegrates into particles smaller than five millimetres, known as microplastics, and these break down further into nanoparticles (less than 0. 1 micrometre in size). Some serious issues due to plastic:

Entanglement: The entrapping, encircling or constricting of marine animals by plastic debris. These Marine animals are stuck into these debris and they are not able to get sufficient amount of Oxygen and they are dying. They also killed by the predators easily.

Ingestion: Large volumes of plastic can greatly reduce stomach capacity, leading to poor appetite and false sense of satiation. Ingestion is process by which the plastic enter into the living organisms. Ingestion of plastic can occur unintentionally, intentionally, or indirectly through the ingestion of prey species containing plastic. Plastic can also obstruct or perforate the gut, cause ulcerative lesions, or gastric rupture. This can ultimately lead to death.

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