Bhubaneswar: Despite Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) best efforts to curb of plastic use in the city, small street restaurants, roadside eateries and tea stalls run by the civic body are blatantly violating rules to provide drinking water to customers in overused and soiled plastic bottles which are turning into a potential health and environmental hazard.
Health experts in the city have also pointed out that uninformed people are drinking water from these bottles which are intended for single use only. They warn that random use of such overused and unhygienic plastic bottle may result in severe health challenges.
“Water, soft drinks and soda are largely sold in bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE). Labels on these plastic containers clearly state that they meant are for single use and should to be disposed off thereafter. However, many vendors in the city wash and reuse them to hold drinking water that is extremely unhealthy,” said environmentalist Suresh Chandra Patro.
Detailing about the ill effects of drinking from PET bottles, Smita Das, an oncologist, said that these bottles are best suited for use once only or for a maximum of few weeks use. “Constant rinsing and cleaning can cause the plastic to break down and this can lead to leaching of cancer-causing substances into the drinking water,” she adds.
Need to discard these bottles after single use is highlighted in the finding of a recent study published in the journal of Environmental Pollution, which states that water from these containers contributes to Biphenyl (BPA) generation, especially during hotter temperatures.
“BPA mimics estrogen in the human body and this can lead to breast cancer, altering in timing of puberty, decrease in fertility, obesity and affecting the immune and nervous systems of the body,” Smita explained.
However, what’s ironical is that despite the chest thumping by the authorities, there is little effort on their part to curb the menace. As a result, large number of such bottles can be found in various places, especially the BMC-operated Omfed stalls as well as other roadside food and tea stalls.
Responding to this, a senior health officer at the BMC said that they have been making conscious efforts to check the usage of plastic bottles and ‘only a few shops might have been off the radar.’
“We have run massive awareness campaigns to bring to knowledge the harmful effects of plastic. We also started an initiative of refunds on disposing plastic bottles at different vending machines around the city. Shops not following the norms will soon be inspected and may be penalised anything between Rs 200 and Rs. 10, 000,” he stated.
While such shop are ‘unabated’ and go unchecked, Smita points that citizens’ lack of awareness on health hazards from drinking such overused plastic bottles is also a reason for the shops providing water in such containers.
Corroborating Smita’s opinions, Karthik Rao, a student at KIIT says, “I mostly snack outside and I drink water from these containers. Even I have noticed that most of these bottles are often uncapped and the water tastes weird, but I never felt that the situation could be this grave.”
However, Das suggests that for a total control on this menace, people should completely refuse to drink water from vendors providing water in such containers. “Water in stainless steel vessels or glass items is the safest and healthy in the long run.”