Microplastics are ubiquitous and scientists have found traces of them in unexpected places such as the top of Mount Everest and the bottom of oceans. Studies have proven that people come into contact with microplastics every day, and its molecules end up in our bodies through food, cosmetics, water, and even polluted air.
Characteristics and sources of microplastics
According to studies conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), microplastic is a heterogeneous mixture of various shapes of materials in the form of fragments, fibers, ellipsoids, granules, shot, and flakes ranging in size from 0.1 μm to 5 mm. Some plastic is a side effect of tire wear, fishing nets, and improper wastewater treatment, while manufacturers add others as a thickener to cosmetics, scrubs, face washes, and even toothpaste.
Very fine plastic fractions of 5-20 µm primarily contaminate drinking water. Studies estimate that microplastics may be present in over 90% of bottled water and in over 72% of tap water samples According to some estimates, people may be consuming the amount of plastic used to make a payment card (about 5 grams) within a week.
The presence of microplastics in the human body
Recent studies have revealed the presence of microplastics in the brain, intestines, and even the placenta. Researchers found its presence for the first time in a blood sample. Scientists at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands analyzed blood samples from 22 anonymous donors in very good health. In 17 samples, or 80 percent, the presence of microplastics was confirmed. This discovery is significant because it may prove that microplastic particles are able to move around the human body and then settle in its organs. The Environment International journal published the study.
The invention of synthetic materials, such as Bakelite in 1907, brought many benefits, but their widespread use created a major environmental problem. Microplastics are now ubiquitous in our environment, and their impact on humans and wildlife is not fully understood. Exposure to microplastics can cause particle toxicity, oxidative stress, and inflammatory changes in biological systems, leading to chronic inflammation and increased cancer risk. Additionally, microplastics can carry harmful substances such as pollutants and pathogens. To reduce their impact, it’s crucial to limit their release and develop disposal methods.
The challenge of biodegradability and environmental impact
The biggest problem with microplastics is that they are not biodegradable. It is mean that they are biologically stable, meaning our bodies are unable to get rid of them. Additionally, the environment will not deal with tons of plastic on its own.
What can we do? It’s certain that we can’t completely avoid this problem. We can still take steps to reduce our exposure to plastics and their derivatives. We can choose glass containers over plastic ones, opt for vegetables that manufacturers don’t package in airtight containers or foil. And use organic cosmetics or products that don’t contain questionable materials in their composition.