The Dangers of Microplastics
According to a 2018 study by the Austrian Environment Agency, microplastics may be present in the stools of more than half of the world's population. What's more, microplastics have now been discovered in human blood, according to research that was published in the Environmental International journal in March 2022.
Why do microplastics cause harm? According to research, microplastics pose a health risk once they enter the human body and start to circulate. In particular, microplastics may harm the human immune system, digestive system, and other systems.
Microplastics are not only ingested by humans, but by animals, fish, plankton and mussels as well. This can impact the entire ecosystem. In addition to consuming microplastics, we are also breathing them in.
What Exactly Are Microplastics
The term "microplastics" refers to very minute plastic particles that are no larger than 5 millimeters. They are present in items like exfoliants, food containers, and even clothing, and although they don’t degrade easily, plastics can be broken down into smaller pieces by physical abrasion and ultraviolet light. For instance, larger plastic bottles that end up in ocean waters and are then continuously exposed to sunshine start to degrade.
The 5 Main Types of Microplastics
Microbeads: Microbeads are less than one millimeter-wide, non-biodegradable plastic particles that can be found in toothpaste, exfoliating treatments, and cosmetic cleansers. Microbeads are frequently mistaken for food by fish and other marine creatures, which is a serious issue because plastic cannot be digested. After being consumed, it blocks their intestines, which can result in malnutrition and death.
Foam: Foam can be found in food and beverage containers including coffee cups. Its compounds can contaminate drinks and food. Food heated in foam containers increases the risk of toxic exposure to humans. This type of Microplastics also breaks down into smaller pieces.
Fragments: Fragments are smaller plastic bits that separate from larger ones and are further broken down by ultraviolet light like from the sun. Cutlery fragments, caps, and single-use goods like water bottles are a few examples of fragments.
Fibers: Diapers, fleece clothes, and cigarette butts are just a few examples of items that contain fibers. One method that microfibers enter our rivers is through our washing machines. Microfiber fleece is not biodegradable, unlike fabrics like cotton or wool.
Nurdles: Nurdles are tiny plastic pellets produced during the production of plastic products. Their small size causes them to occasionally leak out of delivery vehicles, where they can subsequently wind up in storm drains before eventually emptying into nearby waterways. Nurdles can be mistaken for food by fish and other marine creatures, just like microbeads and fragments can.
What Are the Dangers of Microplastics to the Human Body?
Research has found that depending on particle size, microplastics can accumulate in the kidneys, liver, and gut. Microplastics can also break down further into nanoplastics, and negatively impact the lungs, gut, heart, and even reproductive health.
The buildup of dangerous microplastics can cause health risks, including negative impacts on fat and energy metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, nutrient absorption, gut flora, and reproduction, as well as cause oxidative stress, neurotoxic responses, inflammatory responses, genotoxicity, and cell toxicity.
What Can You Do?
Buy in bulk to reduce plastic packaging waste
Skip bottled water and opt for reusable food-grade stainless steel or glass containers
Filter your water with a reverse osmosis system or carbon filter
Buy secondhand clothing
Choose cotton, wool, linen, and hemp clothing and fabrics over microfiber
Minimize purchase of plastic products