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Stop using polythene to wrap Banku – Dr Kweku Afriyie

The Minister of Environment Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Dr Kwaku Afriyie, has cautioned against the use of polythene to wrap foods, particularly banku and Fante kenkey as the practice has serious health implications.

Consequently, it is advising caterers and food vendors to adopt more healthy ways instead of the convenience of serving their customers in polythene.

“Health experts have discovered that boiling food, especially kenkey in plastics poses a serious health hazard to consumers,” He said at a meeting with some caterers’ associations in Accra.

The meeting, which had representatives of the various stakeholders in the informal food and beverage sector, was to discuss the menace of plastic waste and how to fight it as it was becoming a major environmental challenge.

Dr Afriyie asked the caterers to find another innovative and alternative way of food packaging such as the use of paper, leaves, and cards among others without the use of plastics in order to help reduce plastic waste in the country.

“I do not intend to ban plastics or disrupt the activities of the private sector. However, the government will not hesitate to take drastic measures when the need arises, given the implications of using plastics as part of the cooking process.

He added that the severity of the problem is tied to the visibility of plastic waste, especially the fact that plastics block gutters, causing flooding. This results in the spread of diseases such as cholera and malaria.

A Research by Harvard university (Harvard Gazette)

A new study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found that participants who drank for a week from polycarbonate bottles, the popular, hard-plastic drinking bottles and baby bottles, showed a two-thirds increase in their urine of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA).

Exposure to BPA, used in the manufacture of polycarbonate and other plastics, has been shown to interfere with reproductive development in animals and has been linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans.

The study is the first to show that drinking from polycarbonate bottles increased the level of urinary BPA, and thus suggests that drinking containers made with BPA release the chemical into the liquid that people drink in sufficient amounts to increase the level of BPA excreted in human urine.

The study appears on the Web site of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

In addition to refillable polycarbonate bottles and a popular container among students, campers, and others, and are also used as baby bottles, BPA is also found in dentistry composites and sealants and the lining of aluminium food and beverage cans. (In bottles, polycarbonate can be identified by the recycling number 7.)

Numerous studies have shown that it acts as an endocrine disruptor in animals, including early onset of sexual maturation, altered development and tissue organization of the mammary gland, and decreased sperm production in offspring. It may be most harmful in the stages of early development.

“We found that drinking cold liquids from polycarbonate bottles for just one week increased urinary BPA levels by more than two-thirds. If you heat those bottles, as is the case with baby bottles, we would expect the levels to be considerably higher. This would be of concern since infants may be particularly susceptible to BPA’s endocrine-disrupting potential,” said Karin B. Michels, associate professor of epidemiology at HSPH and Harvard Medical School and senior author of the study.

The researchers, led by first author Jenny Carwile, a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH, and Michels, recruited Harvard College students for the study in April 2008.

The 77 participants began the study with a seven-day “washout” phase in which they drank all cold beverages from stainless steel bottles in order to minimize BPA exposure. Participants provided urine samples during the washout period. They were then given two polycarbonate bottles and asked to drink all cold beverages from the bottles during the next week; urine samples were also provided during that time.

The results showed that the participants’ urinary BPA concentrations increased 69 percent after drinking from the polycarbonate bottles. (The study authors noted that BPA concentrations in the college population were similar to those reported for the U.S. general population.)

Previous studies had found that BPA could leach from polycarbonate bottles into their contents; this study is the first to show a corresponding increase in urinary BPA concentrations in humans.

One of the study’s strengths, the authors note, is that the students drank from the bottles in a normal-use setting. Additionally, the students did not wash their bottles in dishwashers nor put hot liquids in them; heating has been shown to increase the leaching of BPA from polycarbonate, so BPA levels might have been higher had students drunk hot liquids from the bottles.

Canada banned the use of BPA in polycarbonate baby bottles in 2008 and some polycarbonate bottle manufacturers have voluntarily eliminated BPA from their products. With increasing evidence of the potential harmful effects of BPA in humans, the authors believe further research is needed on the effect of BPA on infants and reproductive disorders and breast cancer in adults.

“This study is coming at an important time because many states are deciding whether to ban the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups,” said Carwile. “While previous studies have demonstrated that BPA is linked to adverse health effects, this study fills in a missing piece of the puzzle — whether or not polycarbonate plastic bottles are an important contributor to the amount of BPA in the body.”

The study was supported by the Harvard University Center for the Environment and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Biological Analysis Core, Department of Environmental Health, HSPH.

Carwile was also supported by the Training Program in Environmental Epidemiology.

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