Poly bags are easy to carry, light weight, convenient for storing vegetables and meat. But the health hazards they cause are tremendous. Aqsa Anjum finds out some of its perils to human health.

Fresh meat bought from the market can slowly turn into poison. How? The polythene bags that you use to store your eatables can be poisonous. Are you ready to bargain your health for a plastic bag?

Most of us are doing that. Rani Bhagel, a housewife, uses black plastic bags to store meat in refrigerator. “It is easy to store meat in plastic bags rather than using any other container,” she says.

But this practice can be hazardous. Doctor Ajay Rohatgi warns: “The chemicals with which poly bags are manufactured can easily seep into the food stored in them and then into our body.” He says the most dangerous ones are the recycled poly bags, particularly the black and gray colored ones. Also, in some bags the lead content is very high. In the long run this can damage our body system, he adds.

The hazards

“Plastic bags are hazardous as they are non- degradable. When they are burnt, they produce carbon monoxide and other gases which in the long run will affect the ozone layer and will pollute the environment,” says Prof. Sharif Ahmed, Head of Chemistry Department in Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi.
Tahir Noor, a researcher from Voluntary Health Associations of Delhi, says: “In slum areas the biggest pollution creators are the poly bags. They flood drains which leads to water born diseases. Stray cattle feed on huge garbage waste with poly bags and often die.”
Professor Sharif warns that sometimes recycled poly bags contain dangerous chemicals which when mixed with soil could destroy the composition of soil.
Issue of concern
Pinki Singh, a school teacher in Bulbulikhana, a government school near Turkman Gate, is aware of the issue but says that there is no other viable option available in place of plastic bags. She is more concerned about the milk which is mostly available in poly bags. She blames shopkeepers for providing the food items in poly bags.
On the other hand, shopkeepers put the blame on customers. They say that they are aware of the menace but the customers demand it and there is no other alternative available.
The law side of it
The steps to halt the use and manufacturing of plastic bags have already been taken in Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu. “The High Court order asking Delhi government to ban the use of plastic bags comes as a welcome move,” says Prof. Sharif Ahmed.
Though the High Court has ordered a ban on the use of plastic bags it seems the application is there on paper only.
Tahir Noor is skeptical about the ban. “The government is earning huge manufacturing aids from the manufacturers of plastic. That is why they might not want to apply it,” he reasons.
So, it is not that people are unaware. What they want is an alternative option. As Pinki Singh says, “I am a concerned citizen but unless I am provided with an alternative I will keep using it .The plastic bags are more strong and durable than paper bags.” So in spite of the health hazards, plastic bags are here to stay for the time being.

Dangers of polybags

*Polybags being non biodegradable can
effect soil composition

*Drain clogging by plastic bags can lead to
breeding of Mosquitoes and sewage

*Burning of Polybags cause the production
of CO[carbon monoxide ]and other
hazardous gases