PUBLIC awareness campaigns against the use of unauthorised plastic bags or their bad handling or against deliberate or negligent littering of the environment have been going on in the country. Through these campaigns Tanzanians have been sensitised and reminded time and again to use only environmentally friendly plastic bags to minimise health and environmental risks.
Yet, not much has been achieved in this regard as bad handling of unauthorised plastic bags or containers is still used or they are still seen scattered in many areas.
We can reduce health and environmental risks if we protect ourselves from immediate or potential health hazards.
This can be achieved only if we change our mind-set and see ourselves as agents of or active contributors to health or environmental hazards. This is a starting point and unless we are aware of this we won't succeed in making ourselves or the environment free from immediate or potential hazards.
Although a 50,000/- fine or a jail term has been imposed on the people found littering or polluting the environment, many people have not internalised the campaign. This is where the problem lies and makes us hold that as long as we don't change our mind-set, the use of plastic bags remains a recipe for disaster.
Our concern is that besides polluting water and the environment, plastic bags contain substances that cause cancer in humans. This is according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The UN health body suggests that chemicals used to produce plastics as carcinogenic substances cause cancer in humans as they leach chemicals into food, water or drink.
This is so because vendors, who cook food or boil water and store it in plastic bags endanger the health of consumers due to the fact that some ingredients of poison from plastic bags or containers contaminate food or water especially if it is hot.
On Tuesday, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Vice- President's Office (Environment) Joseph Sokoine and other environmentalists stressed this during a Dar es Salaam meeting that involved environmental stakeholders to discuss opportunities for investing in the production of alternative plastic bags to those being used at the moment.
Since carcinogenic substances cause cancer to humans and as many people are involved in food business and use plastic bags to store food or water, we think it is good for them to learn how to protect the health of their customers and not only to be interested in the money they get from them.
Therefore, food traders should be helped to understand that to make their businesses sustainable they must protect the health of their costumers and they can do so by strictly abiding by healthy food guidelines.