The Young Volunteers for the Environment, JVE, Cameroon and the Land and Development Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs, have listed some of the disadvantages of heavy metals that are contained in plastic products on the human health and the ecosystems.
To them, heavy metals contained in plastic products, notably those used by children are could cause illnesses in the long run after accumulation in the system.
The information was revealed during an exchange with media practitioners on August 3, in Yaounde. This activity is part of the implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, SAICM, in Cameroon, reason for the launch in 2020 of the campaign against and the bio-monitoring of toxics in plastic products meant for children.
Acting under the umbrella of the International Pollutants Network, IPEN, JVE and its partner aim at eliminating or mitigating these dangerous chemical substances in products sold in Cameroonian markets.
Thus, going by a list of chemicals potentially toxic to human health and the environment alike, SAICM stated that, aside arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium are particularly scaring as they last longer in organisms.
“Heavy metals are mainly stored in the bones, liver, kidneys, and brain. In humans, they can affect the nervous system, kidney, liver and respiratory glands. Some, such as cadmium, arsenic, nickel and chromium are carcinogenic. Exposure to high doses of heavy metals is therefore implicated in much severe pathology,” stated the NGOs.
Pathologies such as sclerosis, neurodegenerative diseases, lungs, respiratory and digestive cancers as well as renal failures could also result from the accumulation of these metals in ones system. They can equally trigger psychological and neurological disorders like autism as they can lessen reproduction chances.
To them, the presence of cadmium and chromium, even in very small quantities can alter intellectual capacities and cause developmental delay in children in children. As a result, parents and guidance are urged to mind what they buy for their children, and should they buy, ensure their kids do not put they toys in their mouths.
Therefore, the bio-monitoring campaign for toxic heavy metals in manufactured plastic products is focused on children because they are the most exposed and vulnerable targets of this source of pollution.
It should be noted that, these metals are naturally present in the environment at very low levels, and are harmless to human health and the ecosystems. But, pose a real problem when they are deliberately added to certain articles by the producers as explained Achille Ngakeng, Regional Coordinator of IPEN Francophone Africa.
“Scientific studies show that very high levels of heavy metals have been found in some cosmetic products, in several foods including fish, vegetables, fruits, coffee and other items such as jewellery, toys, plastic dolls,” the parties added.
As a result, JVE Cameroon and Land and Development purchased some samples of plastic items that were tested in an approved laboratory in the Czech Republic. The results showed that, most of the products do not contain high metals bur require special attention. The analysis and interpretation of the results revealed that;
“Slippers, shoes, overalls, baby bottles, teats…made of plastics and sold on our markets are likely to contain toxic heavy metals. Cadmium and chromium were found in abnormally high quantities in some of the sampled items.”
The non-governmental organisations call on the authorities, academics, specialised NGOs and other researchers to do more work on this issue so as to shed light on the increasingly proven toxicity of plastic items, particularly those produced by recycling.