What is Microplastic and how to avoid it?

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Looking at my glass of water that I just freshly poured from the tap, I wonder if there is any microplastic inside? It is definitely too hard to see with the naked eye, so I started to do some research on this. But what exactly is microplastic, and how can we avoid it?

Microplastic happens when plastic items become brittle through sunlight and ocean movement. Not a specific kind of plastic, but any plastic that breaks down into pieces smaller than 5 mm. Some also manufactured called microbeads commonly found in cosmetic products or microfibers coming from our synthetic clothes.

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic found in the environment.

They range in size from 5 mm to 1 nanometer, which is 0.000000001, so small you can’t even see them anymore.

Very very small, a billionth of a meter small. Chances are that even our plants are absorbing them through the soil into their cells, now. Whaaaaat?

So any plastic will eventually turn into microplastics if left under sunlight and ocean movement.

what is microplastic

Microplastics are called microbeads when manufactured for cosmetic articles and toothpaste. Remember those little stripes in toothpaste? That’s microplastic.

 In the US, the Microbead-Free Waters Act 2015 phases out microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics by July 2017.[Several other countries have also banned microbeads from rinse-off cosmetics, including Canada, France, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

source: Wikipedia 

Even though we may have gotten control over microbeads. The issue of microplastics hasn’t stopped, and it won’t for decades to come. In fact, plastic production is set to increase by 40% over the next decade, experts say. 

That means more of this

  • Plastic bags (5 trillion per year)
  • Straws (500 million in the US per day)
  • Plastic cutlery (2 billion per year in the US)
  • Take away coffee cups (100 billion ends up on landfill each year) You might think coffee cups? They are made from paper. Well, yes, you are right, but they also have a liner of plastic on the inside to stop the coffee from leaking through the cup. This stuff can’t be recycled either. 
  • plastic bottles (50 billion in America last year)
This is a must watch!

But even your empty plastic bottle or your discarded plastic toy, anything made from plastic will eventually turn into microplastic.

Microplastic in our food.

Microplastics are increasingly found in many different environments, and food is no exception.

One recent study examined 15 brands of sea salt, lake salts, and rock/well salts and all of them contained microplastic. Rock/well salts are the safest to eat.

Other studies have shown microplastic in beer and honey. In german beer ? ( Ich bin Deutscher )

shellfish microplastic

Because microplastics are particular common in seawater they are commonly consumed by fish and other marine animals. Mussels and Oysters had the highest percentage of microplastic contamination. They are basically filtering the seawater.

So if you are a seafood lover this is pretty bad news for you and I am sorry. I actually turned vegetarian after all my research. No joke.

Some news about your drinking bottle:

Do you know how long the coke bottle has been sitting on the shelf in your favorite corner store? Has it been introduced to sunlight for many days or temperature swings?

Why do you wonder? Plastics like PET, HDPE, and others are all leaching harmful chemicals into the contents they are supposed to preserve and keep clean.

While to the naked eye it looks like you are drinking healthy bottled water ( although your tapwater undergoes more tests and regulations than any bottled water), when you look a bit closer, almost every brand contains microplastic. In some studies, they found chemicals that can act as hormone changers and stop you from having babies.

The average person is known to have 70.000 pieces of microplastic ingested within a year.

How bad are microplastics to our health?

We still don’t have enough data to tell you about the longterm symptoms and effects it can have on your body but everywhere you go today there might be a chance for microplastic.

Phthalates, a type of chemical used to make plastic flexible, have been shown to increase the growth of breast cancer cells.

Microplastics have been shown to pass from the intestines through our blood and into other organs. BPA has been known to interfere with reproductive hormones.

Plastics have also been found in humans. One study found that plastic fibers were present in 87% of the human lungs studied. The researchers proposed this may be due to microplastics present in the air

Your car tire sheds 20 grams of microplastic every 100 km’s.

Some of it gets washed straight into our drainage system. It ends up in the ocean and on a warm sunny day, these small particles just fly around in the air and we breathe them in. Pretty gross when you think about it.

There have been some studies on laboratory mice being fed with plastic. The microplastics accumulated in the intestines, liver, and kidneys. It affected the brain of the mice and increased stress molecules.

How can we avoid Microplastic?

Ok, we know now, that it is very common in seafood, particularly in shellfish. Yet, we also don’t know that much about the effects of it.

Say No to packaged Food

In addition, plastic packaging can leak into food. Avoiding packaged food is the best step you can take.

The most efficient way is to stop buying single-use plastic in the first place. This over time will force the companies who are producing this product to rethink and change their product line. Glass is much better not only to our health but also to our environment.

Recycling bottles and relabeling them used to be the norm 20 years ago and I think we need to go back to that. Of course, we can’t, shut down all products that are made from plastic, it is, after all, a very durable and amazingly diverse product and even the keys I am typing on are made from it.

What needs to stop right away is the production of new, virgin plastic. Landfills are full with the stuff that can be recycled and we would have enough plastic to last to the end of our days.

Conclusion:

Microplastics are either purposely produced to be small, like microbeads in cosmetics, or formed from the breakdown of larger plastics due to sunlight and saltwater.

Unfortunately, microplastics are present throughout the environment, including in the air, water, and food.

Seafood, particularly shellfish, contains high concentrations of microplastics that may accumulate in your body after you eat these foods.

How microplastics affect human health is currently unclear. However, results from animal and test-tube studies suggest they may have negative effects.

Reducing your use of plastic food packaging is one of the most effective ways you can reduce plastic in the environment and in the food chain.

Resources:

Healthline.com

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