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Plastics have long been recognized for their detrimental impact on the environment, but a groundbreaking study published in the New England Journal of Medicine sheds light on their potential harm to human health. The study, titled “Microplastics and Nanoplastics (MNP) in Atheromas and Cardiovascular Events,” delves into the association between microplastics (MNPs) and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.

Led by Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at University Hospitals and Herman Hellerstein Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, U.S., the study examined over 200 individuals undergoing carotid endarterectomy, a surgical procedure to remove blockages in the carotid artery. The findings revealed that 58% of patients had detectable amounts of polyethylene, commonly found in food containers and wrappers, in their excised carotid plaque. Additionally, 12% of patients exhibited measurable amounts of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), commonly used in pipes and structural materials.

Over a follow-up period of nearly three years, individuals with evidence of plastics in their arteries were found to be 4.5 times more likely to experience a heart attack, stroke, or death compared to those without plastic residues in their arteries. This correlation underscores the potential health risks posed by microplastics and their impact on cardiovascular health.

While the study does not establish causality, it raises significant concerns about the presence of plastics in human tissues and their association with adverse health outcomes. Dr. Rajagopalan emphasized the importance of exercising caution in the use of plastics, particularly in food storage and preparation. He recommended opting for alternative containers such as glass or steel and avoiding the purchase of plastic water bottles in favor of reusable stainless steel containers.

Furthermore, Dr. Rajagopalan stressed the importance of responsible plastic disposal to mitigate the widespread contamination of the environment with plastics. As the detrimental effects of microplastics on human health continue to emerge, the study underscores the need for greater awareness and regulation to safeguard public health against plastic pollution.

The findings of this study serve as a wake-up call regarding the potential health risks associated with plastic exposure, urging individuals and policymakers alike to take proactive measures to address this pressing issue.

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In a concerning revelation for consumers and environmentalists alike, a new study conducted by the environmental NGO Toxics Link has found a significant presence of toxic chemicals in recycled plastic products available in Delhi’s markets. The report, titled “Is Plastic Recycling Safe?”, underscores the potential health hazards associated with using recycled plastic items, particularly those that come into direct contact with food or are used by children.

The Toxics Link team collected samples from 15 different types of recycled plastic products, ranging from non-branded food and drink containers to children’s toys, sourced from both formal markets and informal plastic recycling units across Delhi. Their findings showed that a vast majority of these items contained harmful substances, including phthalates, chlorinated paraffins, heavy metals, bisphenol A (BPA), and nonylphenol, known for their adverse effects on human health. Such effects can range from reproductive issues and pregnancy complications to respiratory problems, skin conditions, and even DNA damage.

Alarmingly, the study revealed that 86% of the toy samples and 67% of the food-contact plastic materials tested positive for one or more of these hazardous chemicals. Specific examples cited in the report include rubber ducks harboring high levels of single-chain chlorinated paraffins, cadmium, nonylphenol, and phthalates, and a mouth organ containing bisphenol A, nonylphenol, and an exceptionally high concentration of the DEHP phthalate.

Priti Banthia Mahesh, Chief Programme Coordinator at Toxics Link and lead researcher of the study, expressed concern over the findings, emphasizing the need to critically assess the safety of current plastic recycling practices. The investigation suggests that the contamination could occur during the recycling process or might be present in the original products being recycled. The addition of colors during recycling, for instance, has been identified as a potential source of heavy metal contamination.

The implications of these findings are significant, not only highlighting the potential health risks posed by recycled plastic products but also raising questions about the efficacy of recycling as a solution to plastic pollution. The study calls for strict regulatory oversight of plastic recycling in Delhi and across India, with Toxics Link’s associate director, Satish Sinha, advocating for a more cautious approach to plastic recycling, given the serious threat it poses to human health.

This study serves as a crucial reminder of the complexities involved in managing plastic waste and the importance of ensuring safety and sustainability in recycling practices. As consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their choices, the demand for stricter regulations and safer recycling methods is likely to grow, urging policymakers and industry stakeholders to take action.

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