Friday, October 1, 2021 9:15 am
By Nehru Odeh
The oft-quoted saying, ignorance is a disease, rang true when the Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency, LASCOPA, alerted the public of the dangers of consuming plastic bottled drinks that have been exposed to sunlight for a long time at a stakeholders parley held on Wednesday 29 September 2021 at Alausa, Ikeja in Lagos.
The parley with the theme, The effects of exposed plastic bottled drinks to sunlight and the aftermath on consumers, had representatives of manufacturing companies, distributors, the academia and National Agency For Food And Drug Administration And Control, NAFDAC, in attendance.
In his welcome address, The General Manager, Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency, Mr Afolabi Solebo noted that the forum was necessitated by the need to awaken the awareness of producers of bottled drinks to their responsibilities and good manufacturing practices and also sensitize consumers of the dangers inherent in consistent exposure of plastic and pet bottle drinks to sunlight.
“Most plastic items release a tiny amount of chemicals into beverages or food they contain. As temperature and time increase, the chemicals in the plastics increasingly break down and are more likely to leak. Medical experts say the chemical is too minuscule to cause health problems, but consumers should avoid persistent exposure to plastic containers left for long in sunlight,” Solebo said.
However, the Chairman, LASCOPA, Mrs Funmi Falana, who described the parley as a family meeting because of its importance to LASCOPA, producers and consumers of plastic bottles said, “A lot of plastic drinks are exposed to the sun by market women and consumers need to refuse to buy them. The law empowers us to protect the rights of consumers in Lagos State, so we have a task force that will seal up shops that violate these rights.”
Falana, however, regretted that market women who are at the receiving end of the distribution chain of plastic bottled drinks were not at the confab. “I would be very glad today if we as producers could take our knowledge and information to distributors and consumers… It is very important for producers to co-operate with LASCOPA,’ she maintained.
The Head, Department of Economics, Lagos State University, Prof. Ibrahim Bakare said consumers are not only exposed to harmful toxins from the plastic bottled drinks, they risk ingesting the chemicals used to make the plastic bottles (most especially for older plastic bottles being exposed to sunlight) as they leach into the drinks over time.
He also said an industrial chemical called Bisphenol A, BPA, might gain entry into the blood stream of those consuming drinks from plastic bottles exposed to the sun.
“BPA has consequences for mutagenic, carcinogenic, reproductive, immunity and neurological effects in living organisms as well as an increased likelihood of Alzheimer’s, childhood asthma, metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, among others, adding that it may result in birth defects and developmental disabilities in children.
“The exposure to estrogen (sex hormone responsible for the regulation of reproductive system) in BPA has been proven by several studies to decreased fertility in both men and women.
“Consumption of chemicals from both BPA and BHPF (Fluorene 9 Bisphenol) leads to imbalances in the hormones of males and females which affects weight management problems.
“The consumption of the toxins from the plastic bottled drinks have been linked to cardiovascular diseases in consumers.
“Regular consumption of plastic bottled drinks might also imply drinking microplastic (small pieces of plastic debris usually less than 5mm long) with negative health consequences for human survival.
Bakare, among other things, however, recommended that public campaign/public awareness programmes should be organized to educate the public about the dangers of consuming excessive plastic bottled drinks and those exposed to sunlight.
Quality assurance mechanisms should be institutionalized to check the excesses of both producers, middlemen and retailers. Efforts should be made by relevant state and National agencies to enforce compliance with environmental standards.
He also recommended that consumers can drink in a glass cup instead of plastic bottled drinks and also opt for use of packages made from alternative materials (e.g. wood, metal, etc) other than bottled plastics.
He advised that consumers should seek for more knowledge to understand the realities of the uncertain world we live in.
However, on his part, Mr Nasiru Argungu, representative of the National Agency For Food And Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, said many plastics used outdoors may contain additives (so-called UV stabilizers) to at least slow down the UV effect, but plastic beverage bottles do not contain such additives and, as a result, the plastic may become weakened and develop leaks over time.
He also said some of the harmful effects of the exposure of plastic bottled drinks to sunlight include the following: formation of carcinogenic substances as in the case of Sodium Benzoate and Ascorbic Acid. Reduction in Shelf life of products due to effect of UV rays. Possible endocrine disruption due to BPA leaching. Breast cancer due to certain chemical reactions. Microbial Contamination due to permeability caused by degradation. Infertility and Immune deficiency syndrome due to dioxin. Inflammation of skin and eyes and respiratory infections due presence of Antimony. Endocrine disruption and respiratory infections caused by phthalates in some plastics.
“Consumers are strongly advice to store bottled water (and all other beverages in plastic containers) at room temperature (or cooler), out of direct sunlight and away from solvents and chemicals such as gasoline, paint thinner, household cleaners and dry-cleaning chemicals.
“Prevention is always cheaper and wiser than to cure. Therefore it is recommended that exposure to sun should be avoided to ensure safe and quality food products,” Argungu maintained.