Despite the blanket ban imposed in August this year by Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) against the use of Polystyrene (thermocol)-{Formula: (C8H8)n} products (like plates etc.) used in serving food items in hotels, restaurants and marriage functions, because of their carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and non-biodegradable nature; their widespread use has gone unchecked. Even the Regional Director of Pollution Control Board too has reportedly been informed by SMC and the Cancer Society of Kashmir about the alarming situation caused by the use of such toxic materials. However all such actions have proved to be ineffective and the sporadic use of these harmful products continues unabated. In this connection one activist Mr. Sathya Prabhu has put in his all efforts to meet SMC officials, other bureaucrats and ministers, who have assured him to impose effective ban on the use of such hazardous materials.

“ The fact that styrene can adversely affect humans in a number of ways raises serious public health and safety questions regarding its build-up in human tissue and the root cause  of this build-up. According to ‘The Foundation for Achievements in Science and Education fact sheet’, long term exposure to small quantities of styrene can cause neurotoxin fatigue, nervousness, difficulty in sleeping, hematological (low platelet and hemoglobin values, cytogenetic (chromosomal and lymphatic abnormalities) and carcinogenic effects,” writes Dr Pragya Khanna, a Cytogenetic specialist and professor from Jammu. Besides the studies suggest that styrene mimics estrogen in females and can therefore disrupt normal hormone functions, possibly contributing to thyroid problems, menstrual irregularities, and other hormone-related problems, as well as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Besides being a potent health hazard, these disposable products are also non-biodegradable and pose a huge environmental challenge as they pile on without decomposing making the earth infertile. The microorganisms meant for composting do not consume these substances; instead these very materials become a cause for the death of these micro-organisms. Mostly these materials find their way in to fresh water/ drainage channels creating obstruction in their free flow / choking, thus leading to flooding and polluting the surrounding areas. In addition to this the huge piles of these materials are being burnt at high temperatures of the melting point of 240 degrees, for warming / heating / cooking, on glacier tops causing their melting, besides global warming. On burning, these materials emanate toxic fumes with obnoxious smell besides exuding flying ash which gets inhaled by people causing respiratory problems like bronchial asthma and other respiratory diseases and other adverse consequences on health of children and pregnant females / her fetus, and may even be a cause of cancer.

An alternative to this product has been reportedly developed by processing freely available tree-leaves, which is biodegradable and eco-friendly. The product is known as IUPAC, ID: (I-phenylethene -1, 2-diyl). In Kashmir we have plenty of Chinar leaves, which could be processed to develop such a new product.

To combat this burning issue more and more people like Sathya Prabhu need to rise to the occasion for betterment of the environment and thus be beneficent to the society.

About shahishaharyar

Chartered civil engineer,Fellow institution of engineers India, Member Indian road congress,Member American society of civil engineers, Presented over 70 papers in various seminars,published books over 36 on environment,history, sufi saints, genealogy,free lance writer, travelled in India and abroad.

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