The Negative Effects of Plastic

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Certain plastics can leach chemicals into the environment and the human body.
Certain plastics can leach chemicals into the environment and the human body. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Plastic is virtually ubiquitous. It's hard to even glance around a room without seeing things made wholly or partly out of the substance. While plastic has many uses in medicine, science, industry and consumer goods, it also has its disadvantages. Plastic and plastic products can adversely affect human and environmental health.

Choking Hazard

Small plastic pieces, including toys and plastic bags, represent a choking hazard for young children. Plastic bags are especially risky because children can get their heads trapped in the bag and suffocate as a result. Dispose of plastic grocery or trash bags and keep them away from children under three. Likewise, plastic toys and small plastic objects present a choking hazard when babies or toddlers put them in their mouth. Adhere to the warnings typically present on products not intended for young children.

Chemical Risk

Certain chemical components in plastics have been shown to be harmful to human health. Chemicals such as BPA and phthalates are widely used to make plastics more pliable and resistant to degrading. However, these chemicals can interfere with natural hormone levels. Some evidence suggests they've lowered testosterone levels in men and induced early puberty in girls. Vinyl, shower curtains and milk jugs are examples of plastic products that frequently contain these harmful additives.

Environmental Harm

The mass use of plastic bags and bottles and plastic in general has had a negative impact on the environment. Unlike other materials, plastic takes a long time to decompose, so discarded plastic ends up in waterways, oceans, forests and other natural habitats. Moreover, animals often mistake plastic items for food, ingesting them and causing injury or death. Plastic that's incinerated as a method of disposal also releases harmful, carcinogenic compounds into the air.

Durability

Another negative effect of plastic has little to do with human or environmental health, but is problematic nonetheless. Plastic is often less durable than other materials, such as wood or metal alloy. Manufacturers may look to plastic to replace more durable materials to cut costs but will sacrifice quality to do so. Plastic products may be more prone to breakage or degradation than those made from sturdier and more expensive materials.

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