The Queen City of the South anticipates a major Sinulog celebration for 2024 but so is the impending challenge of post-parade waste accumulation that looms large in the horizon.
Street sweepers diligently collect a substantial volume of used plastics, including various forms of plastic bottles. The Sinulog festival, attracting millions of attendees, raises concerns about its impact.
As reported by SunStar Cebu last year, the Cebu City Department of Public Services collected over 180 tons of garbage after the Sinulog grand parade and fiesta masses. The cleanup involved 1,300 street cleaners and took approximately eight hours. The majority of the 181.4 tons of trash consisted of plastic bottles, styrofoam food containers and plastic bags.
Taking a closer look at the festival’s reliance on plastic bottles, recent research by Columbia University as reported by Forbes, raises questions about the potential health risks associated with consuming water from such containers.
The study exposes that a liter of bottled water harbors a significant amount of nanoplastics, which may contribute to gastrointestinal disorders and other health concerns.
Seven types of plastics were identified in the tested water bottles, including commonly used materials like polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate and polystyrene, found in styrofoam containers. Notably, polyamide, a form of nylon, emerged as the most prevalent plastic.
However, these seven plastics only constituted 10 percent of the total nanoplastics detected in the water. The researchers remain uncertain about the nature of the remaining 90 percent of nanoplastics, leaving open the possibility that each liter may contain tens of millions of these unidentified particles, with potential implications for health and the environment.
Given the active participation of Sinulog attendees in utilizing plastic bottles during the festivities, there is an urgent need to scrutinize the environmental and health implications inherent in this common practice.
The International Bottled Water Association, responding to concerns, asserted in a statement to Forbes that bottled water undergoes stringent regulation by the FDA. It emphasized the absence of evidence suggesting nanoplastics pose a threat to human health, highlighting that the FDA has yet to establish regulations specifically addressing these plastics in food or beverages.
Due to their minute size, nanoplastics can navigate through the body, reaching vital areas like the bloodstream, lungs, heart and brain. Scientists suggest that nanoplastics may pose more significant risks compared to microplastics, attributed to their increased reactivity, abundance, and ability to access various body locations.
Research from 2021 links nanoplastics to inflammatory responses in the intestines, oxidative stress, and the development of metabolic disorders. Notably, polystyrene nanoplastics have been associated with adverse health effects, including heightened mortality, growth disorders, reproductive abnormalities and gastrointestinal dysfunction. These findings highlight the potential health risks posed by nanoplastics, urging further exploration into their impact on human well-being.
The imminent challenges of post-event waste and the associated health risks linked to plastic bottle usage call for urgent attention. The nexus of Sinulog’s festivity with recent research exposing potential health hazards related to nanoplastics creates a crucial juncture to champion health-centric solutions.
Mitigating these concerns involves advocating for eco-friendly practices, strengthening waste management, introducing bottle return programs and educating the public about the risks of nanoplastics. Supporting local businesses offering health-conscious alternatives and fostering innovation in the reduction of health-related risks are pivotal steps. Cebu can strike a balance between the celebration of Sinulog and the essential safeguarding of public health during this iconic festival.