What is Microplastic? Are We Literally Eating Plastic?

Microplastic | Plastic | 05th November 2021 | Virtual Wire

 

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An average person eats and drinks approximately 5 grams of plastic every week, roughly the size of a credit card. Living in the modern era, it's almost inevitable to avoid plastics.

We use plastics everywhere, from the plates we eat to the straws we use to drink. We can find plastics beyond the chairs we sit on, the pen we use to write with, the clothes we wear, the cosmetics we use, the medicinal products used in hospitals, the gifts that we receive are packed in plastic packaging. Thus, we are surrounded by plastic. The company that first used synthetic plastic named it "The Material of a Thousand Uses." And, Yes, it is used in thousands of products today.



Microplastic in our food

Picture -Forbes


The plastic waste produced from the plastic products we use ends up in the form of a pile of plastic trash. Only a tiny or ignorable amount of plastic is recycled; most of it washes in the oceans. Today the world has produced around 8 billion tons of plastic trash since the 1950s and only could recycle 10 per cent of it. The plastic being in the trash or oceans starts leaching the tiny particles of plastic. These small particles begin to shed off from the garbage. The tiny fragments are smaller in size, and the particles smaller than 5 millimetres are termed microplastic.


It is not just the old plastic that started leaching small particles in the form of microplastic. But when we open a packet of chips or a bottle of water or any other plastic packaging, thousands of microplastic are shredded off from it. It means we are literally eating plastic along with our food. And not only this, but we are also inhaling microplastic. The microplastic is so tiny that it can become part of the dust and inhale with the air. Today, an average person thinks that plastic is harmful to marine life as the plastic trash washes in the oceans. But, no! Plastic is more hazardous to our health. We, humans, are directly affected by plastic.


The plastic takes decades to degrade, and until that time, it will stay with us in the form of piles that will remain there for thousands of years. In the modern era, mostly whatever we eat comes in plastic packaging. The plates we use to serve food are plastic, the bottle we use to drink water is plastic, the fruits we buy from a grocery store are packed in plastic. The meat we buy also comes in plastic packaging, and we are eating microplastic with all these things. These tiny specs are shredded off from the plastic products.



Is it harmful to ingest microplastic?

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When we heat plastic in the microwave, it sheds off a considerable amount of microplastic that is eventually ingested along with our food. We are eating polluted food and thinking we are living a healthy life. That's such a pitiful condition that the thing produced for the ease of humanity is now the most dangerous.


It is proved with evidence that in animals, microplastic when ingested, becomes a part of the bloodstream and can reach different organs and even the body's tissues. There these plastics can leach Bisphenlos and Phathaltes that cause inflammation.


When ingested by a pregnant mother, the microplastic can also reach the fetus through the placenta and can affect the blood circulation of the fetus. That can lead to many complications and other health hazards. This is unpublished research, but it was presented at Rutgers Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability at the spring conference.

Picture -wur


These hormonal imbalances eventually have numerous health hazards. The plastic leaching bisphenols A and phthalates can directly affect the hormone and can lead to hormonal imbalance. Bisphenols and phthalates can affect testosterone production in males and can cause reduced fertility. The bisphenols result in a significant reduction in sperm count and can lead to infertility in males.


There are certain chances that in animals (rats), these microplastics can travel towards the brain through the bloodstream and cross the membrane to reach the brain and affect the nervous activity. The use of plastic can lead to various kinds of cancers like mammary and prostate cancer. The phthalates from microplastic can lead to cardiovascular diseases. The need of the hour is to reduce the use of plastic in our daily life. It will require a little effort but will result in colossal success to save ourselves and our environment from the hazardous effects of plastic.



How can we reduce the use of plastic?

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On our end, we can make a lot of changes that can reduce plastic exposure. Some of the things are listed below:


Drink tap water

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Drinking tap water is safer than drinking from a plastic bottle, as the water from a plastic bottle has double the amount of microplastic than tap water. So, always try to drink water from the tap. If you want to carry water with you, use glass bottles or steel bottles not in direct contact with plastic.


Don't microwave plastic

Picture -chemical safety facts


When we heat the plastic, it releases a large number of microplastics. And when the plastic is microwaved, then the amount of microplastic shedding increases. So, try to heat your food in a pan on the stove to reduce the microplastics in food.


Avoid plastic for storing food

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It is widespread to store food in plastic zip bags or other containers in our fridge. To reduce the plastic contact, you should use aluminium, silicon, or glass containers. This can reduce the chances of microplastic being ingested.


Eat fresh food

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Always try to eat fresh food instead of stored food. The stored food comes in mostly plastic packaging, and it has been in plastic packaging for a long time. There are more chances of microplastic to become a part of it. You can use cardboard or other reusable containers to carry groceries that will also minimize the plastic content.


Last but not least, we should create awareness about reducing plastic consumption in our daily life. We should look at the big picture and involve the community in this action. We can reduce the use of plastic by creating awareness through seminars, tv ads, and other social platforms and highlighting the health risks that plastic can cause.


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