Over 8.3 billion tons of place were generated by human beings since the 1950s. Almost 79 percent of that plastic is dumped in landfills, oceans, and the natural environment. Every plastic item on the planet breaks down into small pieces throughout its lifetime. The tiny pieces of plastic, less than 5 millimeters each, are known as microplastics.
There are 500 times more microplastics on the planet than stars in our galaxy. Humans are continuously producing, utilizing, and throwing away large amounts of plastic than they ever have before. And the issue that no one pays attention to is that plastic will stay with us on this earth for thousands of years.
Approximately two-thirds of all plastics generated remain in the environment today. They can be found everywhere: oceans, rivers, soils, in the guts of fish and insects, human organs, and even floating through the air. Is microplastics harmful, and what can we do to avoid it?
Is Microplastics Harmful?
Scientists and researchers are still in the process of understanding the impact of microplastics on human and planetary health. However, researchers are sure about the harmful nature of microplastics. Microplastic contains toxic and harmful chemicals. When produced, plastic is processed with additives like flame retardants, plasticizers, pigments, and UV stabilizers. These additives make up 4 percent of microplastic weight.
According to a few studies, microplastics consumed by marine animals make their way up the food chain. Microplastics have made their way through all kinds of food, not just seafood. Studying the level of microplastics in our food chain is still a new research field. Experts are currently trying to discover the long-term effects of microplastic on human beings and the food chain.
A recent study found that microplastics in the human placenta can disrupt the normal functioning of hormones and cause long-term effects on human health- for example, DNA damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress.
Ingesting of plastic particles can cause mass mortality among seabirds and fishes. Fishes can experience severe energy depletion, fertility, behavioral problems, and even premature death. Microplastics are considered extremely harmful to biodiversity and ecosystems.
What Can We Do To Avoid Microplastics?
Due to the amount of plastic produced today, it becomes difficult to altogether avoid it in our life. However, there are a few ways to reduce the spread and risk of consuming microplastics.
Today most of our food products contain large amounts of microplastics in them. Considering this, it would be good to make a few changes in our lifestyle and diet.
Firstly, consider drinking boiled or filtered tap water and avoid bottled water. More than 90 percent of the world’s popular bottled water brands contain microplastic.
Be more conscious of the clothes you purchase and the products you use. Large amounts of microplastics are found in synthetic garments. Over 35 percent of all microplastic found in the ocean is from synthetic textiles. Thus, you should avoid buying this material.
Avoid using exfoliants and scrubs as they too contain a high content of microplastics.
Besides individual efforts, governments also need to address the increasing plastic pollution crisis. Countries need to reduce overall plastic and ban the use of single-use plastic. The European Union has already established rules on marine litter and accomplished a significant reduction in plastic bag usage among several of its Member States through the Plastic Bags Directive.
The Netherlands was the first country to ban cosmetic microbeads in 2014. Other countries soon followed the example. The textile industry today remains overlooked despite its huge role in spreading microplastics over the world.
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