Microplastics- Not so fantastic
Plastic contamination is a worldwide epidemic that needs curbing with particular concern arising about ‘microplastic’.The amount of plastic is world’s ecosystem has long been a cause of deep concern.
Microplastics are virtually everywhere, in the air we breathe, the water we drink and ultimately in most of the meats we eat.
Recently, tiny microplastic beads used in cosmetic products began gaining attention worldwide leading to a subsequent ban.
WHAT ARE MICROPLASTICS?
Microplastics comprise of tiny fibres from nylon clothes and other synthetic textures.
They can also come from fragments of large plastic pieces that have been broken down due to natural degeneration.
Micro plastics are defined as plastics with a very minuscule size starting from 1mm
Micro plastics can break down even after they attain the size of 10 nm (100000 smaller than one mili meter)
WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
Because so much plastic ends up in the ocean,an estimated eight million tons per year, according to the National Ocean Services—toxicologists have taken a particular interest in studying microplastics in fish and sea animals. They’re definitely being ingested by marine life.
There is some evidence that microplastics can absorb toxic chemicals and then release them in an animal’s digestive systems. This would obviously be bad for our health.
New research published earlier this year has shown that household dust is a more likely source of microplastics than even mussels.
According to researchers, 114 pieces of microplastic settle on a dinner plate during the 20 minute duration of a meal, adding up to anywhere between 13,000 and 68,000 pieces per year.
And when you breathe in air, you could be breathing in the microscopic plastic particles as well.
A quite disturbing study has concluded that nanoplastic particles accumulated in brains of fish and other marine animals directly affected brain activity of the subjects.The subjects were found to be slower and less explorative than normal fishes.
No scientific evidence has been found on effects on human brain yet.
In fact, the World Health Organization has recently announced a review into the potential human health impacts of small plastic particles
how does the size of microplastic affect us?
The smaller the size of the particles more easy it is for the particles to cross biological barriers like cell membrane and cause tissue damage.
There is also evidence that potentially-toxic plastic nanoparticles may be able to migrate through the intestinal wall during digestion. Whether they then enter the blood stream is not clear, however.
HOW WE CAN AVOID THESE PARTICLES?
There isn’t much we can do about microplastics that are already in our air and water.
Though an air purifier or water filter may reduce the larger plastic particles (down to a couple of microns), this wouldn’t remove the smaller nanoparticles.
However, there is a way to prevent this problem from getting worse in the future: produce and use less plastic. This is where we, as individuals can make a difference by reducing the amount of plastic we use.
There are many ways to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use. You can cut down on packaged junk food, stop buying bottled water and stop using plastic straws, just to list a few.
In addition, for every product made of single-use plastic, there is almost always a reusable alternative. For example, use a reusable water bottle instead of disposable bottled water.
Most items made of disposable plastics are useless to us anyway, and could be easily removed from most of our lives (like plastic drinking straws and plastic bags).
Reducing the disposable plastics that we use have two benefits: it reduces the amount of waste plastic going into the environment, and also reduces the amount of plastic you’re exposed to on a daily basis.
There are alternatives to plastic, but only certain manufacturers and retailers are using them.
This means that the responsibility falls on us as consumers to take the lead and reward responsible companies with our business. While doing this, we are punishing those that don’t take environmental concerns seriously by not buying their products or services.