Let me begin by making a confession here. I do not remember the last time I deliberately tuned in to GTV to listen to the news or watch programmes. Should I do that on any occasion, then it would be an activity of a major national interest which only GTV broadcasts. Reasons I will not declare now. Last Tuesday morning told me I have been missing something very serious on this national network. When I switched on my set, it was on GTV, and a particular discussion was going on. I gave myself a few seconds to listen to the discussions and I never changed the dial, as the broadcasters would say.
There was this gentleman by name Dominic Gyamfi, if I heard the name correctly discussing the effects of plastics on our health in this country. Since there is one form of plastic or the other in every home today in Ghana, I decided to pay attention to the discussions. My dear countrymen, I have never been so scared in my life as the exposures Mr. Dominic Gyamfi, an Assistant Librarian of the Ghana Medical School Legon, gave from other researchers. Surely many of us see the danger of the plethora of plastics and their use in this country from the environmental point of view.
Our choked drains which create flooding just after 30 minutes of rainfall is as a result of plastics recklessly dumped into them by irresponsible citizens. The wind aids the process by carrying those plastics abandoned at open spaces into the drains to silt them. Contractors have to spend a lot of man hours removing plastics from gravels they are using to construct roads. Small streams and rivers have been polluted and eventually killed by plastics. The mountains of refuse found across every nook and cranny of this country have become unmanageable because of the excessive plastic components. This we all know, even though we are not doing anything about it.
The exposures by Dominic Gyamfi are about our health, it is about the myriad of ‘new’ diseases afflicting the citizens, it is about the biological changes particularly among the female section of our populace. Plastic bowls and cups have replaced enamels and other traditionally used items in the households. He talked about the use of plastic disposable cups for alcoholic drinks for example. He said research has proven that when alcohol is put into plastic cups, certain chemicals in the cup which are injurious to our health dissolve into the alcohol and we drink them with very dire outcomes overtime.
It has become fashionable these days for people to be served alcohol in plastic cups at public functions like funerals, weddings, drinking pubs and such other places. Yes, it is economical and convenient, but Mr. Gyamfi links the use of plastic cups for the consumption of alcohol to infertility and low sperm counts among males, a very growing phenomenon among the youth of the day, according to many medical doctors in this country. One amazing but true occurrence Mr. Gyamfi drew our attention to is the fact that no imported alcoholic beverage is contained in plastic containers. They are mostly found in bottles. The alcoholic beverages produced in this country are mostly found in plastic containers which mix up some of the chemicals with the alcohol for consumption. Deadly, he says.
Gyamfi’s studies from other international researchers indicate that a child of today begins an infected life from birth when we start feeding it in plastic feeding containers. Hot meals in those plastic containers, according to Gyamfi, get infected with some chemicals in the plastic which dissolve into the food that is fed the child. Compare this with other generations, when bottles were the means of feeding children. In fact people like me were never fed in any bottles. Who born dog, some big spoons were trusted into our mouths and forced to swallow the contents willy-nilly.
We are using plastic bowls with hot meals and serving them at home, Gyamfi says it is very dangerous for our health and one of the reasons why female kids of between 7 and 9 years are having their menstrual periods these days and subsequently getting pregnant at the ages of 11 and 12 in some cases. Not just that, they accumulate some harmful chemicals in the body and 20 or more years later, certain diseases which used to be associated with the rich and the affluent in the society develop in them
It is very common to report of diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, and the incurable cancers particularly among women these days. Food is heated in microwaves every passing minute for consumption without any precaution. He questioned why the ‘take-away’ carriers react in a certain way when they are set on fire. They are products of byproducts of petroleum products and we heat them as they contain food for our consumption on a daily basis.
When I was growing up, we bought cooking oil, palm oil, coconut oil, palm-nut oil in bottles or other such containers. Today we buy all these and many more with used plastic containers originally containing water which do not react with any of the chemical properties used in the manufacture of the containers. Surely some of the consumables react to the chemicals used in the production of the container. Watch out, when water is emptied from any plastic container, the container remains as it originally was, except that it is empty. But the same container, when it is emptied of say palm oil, it shrinks. What accounts for that?
The worst picture painted by Gyamfi in his research is the water we drink from plastics. With the plastic bottles, he proved a case that when it is even kept in a car under a certain temperature for a certain period, it is not safe for our consumption. I have personally experienced such a situation before. He noted in his education on GTV that the very popular sachet (pure) water which is today consumed by more than 70% of our populace must be kept under a certain temperature. Beyond that, it becomes harmful to our health, this is obviously known to the FOOD and Drugs Authority and the Standards Authority. What do we see, they are found in very unhygienic vehicles under the scorching sun every day for our consumption. Nobody cares.
Europe and other advanced nations have gone back to the use of paper bags and other related paper products as means of easing their day to day activities. Times were when we were eating ‘waakye’ from leaves, they were declared unwholesome and virtually kicked against. Yes, some of the users did not make them very healthy but they did not create problems for the environment nor our health that much. Indeed, recent studies have come to accept that they were medicinal. Why did we abandon them? Copy cats that we are, we swallow hook, line and sinker anything coming from out there, and by the time those from whom we learnt those things had abandoned them, we will be in our prime of usage. Poor souls.
I am happy to have learnt this from Gyamfi, courtesy GTV. In order to give broader education to the populace, I offer two issues of my column to Mr.Gyamfi for education on the dangers that some of the plastics pose to our health and draw the attention of those who have the responsibility to ensure our safety to act as soon as possible.
I hope he explains the issues to the barest understanding of the ordinary Ghanaian to appreciate the fact that by our unbridled use of plastics, we are procuring our national death on installment basis. Yes, we are confronted with economic crisis, but we should not sacrifice our health for anything else. Mr. Gyamfi, the ball is in your court now, help save Ghana.
Author’s Note: This article was first published some four years ago in this same column. The harm that some plastic materials are causing to our health and our environment is unimaginable. They are destroying our water bodies, the soil on which agriculture depends and many others. The rains will be in very soon. What is the nation’s plan to deal with plastics? A stich in time——
-From Kwesi BineyRead Full Story