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Microplastics and How to Reduce Ingesting Them in Your Food and Drink
Scientists have discovered that there is everywhere in the ocean, in our rivers, and in the air. The smallest pieces blow around in the wind and every year it accumulates. As time goes by, there is more around because plastic is not natural and will not rot away.
The size of this plastic waste ranges from small microscopic straws to whole plastic bags, and normally the size of large fishing nets. It all endangers all animals. It is especially harmful to aquatic life, because eating these small debris is harmful to their health.
But it doesn’t end there. The impact on human health of the smallest amounts of these plastics in our body is the most concerning. It can cause cancer and has been shown to disrupt important cell membranes. In the best of all creations, it tends to hang around and get in the way, and it can’t be good.
What are Microplastics?
Microplastics are small plastic particles (less than 5mm in size) which are released when the plastic breaks down or is exposed to air.
These particles are so small that many of them cannot be seen without a microscope. But they move around in our rivers and through ocean currents moving great distances in patterns around the world, instead of confetti.
More recently scientists have begun looking for “hot spots” where these particles accumulate. The purpose of such studies is to gather data on the amount and potential risks that come from these small pieces of trash. However, many problems have already been identified.
Where are Microplastics?
Microplastics are everywhere. They enter our bodies in our food. For example, they can collect the nostrils of farm animals from tire dust blowing on roads.
And even our water supplies are affected when they enter the rivers that are used to supply our tap water.
Therefore, many scientists are trying to limit the use of plastics.
Microplastics in Food
Microplastics are found in food. A recent study in Australia found that people ingest up to twenty grams of microplastics each week. In addition, consumers in other countries may consume up to four pounds of microplastics every month. Some sources of plastics are likely to carry toxic chemicals that are dangerous to humans, while others are not.
Reason for concern
“How can pieces of plastic hurt anyone”, you may ask. After all, plastic is surely just made from long-chain polymers of carbon and hydrogen? These two elements are some of the most common on earth.
However, the concern does not come from the plastic resin when it is clean. Some forms of plastic are used in their pure form without anything added. Other plastic polymers would be too brittle without the addition of plasticizers. Bulking factors are also added by manufacturers to reduce the cost of plastic materials as well.
What Chemical Additives Are in Plastic?
Plastic manufacturers rarely let us know what plastics their products contain. They say such information is a trade secret. There is no readily available information on any tests they have done to check how safe their supplements are to human health and the environment.
Danger No one will see the Coming
So far, this is seen as perfectly acceptable. Who would try to eat plastic products anyway, let alone plastic items not meant to go anywhere near food?
But they didn’t think ahead to see the size of the plastic and how much plastic litter would get into the area. Or people don’t know how, being close to the weight of water would mean it would float around for a long time. Or how it will break and millions of small pieces will break up and focus again on the beaches.
Actions You Can Take to Reduce Microplastics in Your Food
Don’t Put Plastic Containers in the Washing Machine
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding heating plastic in the dishwasher, as some plastics that are heated may contain chemicals. For this reason, it is important to avoid using plastics in the washing machine. Finally, it is important to limit the consumption of all types of plastic.
Avoid Buying Products That Contain Microbeads
If you buy products containing microbeads (in situations where they are not already banned), you may not know the negative effect. Some say they make your bathroom feel too grainy. You may accidentally eat some every time you use the product.
The World Health Organization report on this issue calls for more research. And now it urges governments to ban the production and use of microplastics by 2025.
Therefore, from now on avoid buying cosmetics and other products which contain microbead microplastics such as some toothpastes, and some perfume products.
At the very least, always wash your hands or rinse your mouth, after using cosmetics or toothpaste containing microplastics.
Eat seafood in moderation
We eat seafood contaminated with microplastics all the time. Just vary your diet and don’t eat fish all the time.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have studied the effects of microplastics on fish, birds, and other animals. And they are looking for other ways to reduce microplastics in the ocean.
Avoid Eating Processed Foods
Another way to limit microplastics in your body is to stop eating processed foods that contain microplastics. Unlike traditional meat, which can contain large particles of plastic, processed foods can contain more than ten percent of microplastics per serving. That has a lot of plastic!
And this is not the only way that microplastics get into our bodies.
Support Action to Prevent Use of Single Use Plastics
Despite some research progress, there is no definitive answer on whether microplastics are harmful to human health. Meanwhile, it is logical to think that if they are.
Many people are already voting against single-use plastic every time they buy a product choosing one that comes in a non-returnable plastic bottle. If you are concerned about microplastics simply join the movement and do the same!
Avoid Bottled Water
One of the biggest contributors of microplastics is drinking water. But, according to a recent study, bottled water has twice as many plastic particles as tap water. So avoid water in plastic bottles.
Fortunately, there is a way to reduce the amount of plastic in tap water by using a microplastic filter that is available in some filtration products.
Microplastics in Other Things We Eat
But what about the rest of our food? There is no definitive answer, but research shows that microplastics can be found in everything from meat to seaweed. In addition to our drinking water, it contains beer and sea salt.
Microplastics are so small and invisible to the naked eye that it is easy to continue to eat them accidentally if they are in our environment (our homes and offices). Finally, there is a way to avoid them and it is for everyone to reduce the amount of single use of plastic packaging and other plastic materials.
Microplastics are very small plastic particles that are floating down the drain and into the ocean pretty much everywhere all the time.
There are different ways to reduce the amount of microplastics in your diet by making food choices in favor of low microplastic concentration foods.
To further limit the microplastics entering your body, the first and most obvious way is to limit your use of microbead-based personal care products. If those you use regularly do not include microbeads there are other steps you can take to reduce this risk.
If you are still concerned about your own microplastic use take a look at cleaning up the environment within your living space. There are steps we can take to reduce the amount of microplastics in our home and global environment by pressuring local politicians for action.
But for the rest of our time, we can still participate in local cleanups, reduce the amount of trash, and recycle our waste.
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