We live in a world where it is not possible to survive one day without the use of plastic. It is such a common material that it is probably safe to assume that at any given minute, everyone is wearing something containing plastic. Over the years, scientists have become more wary of the abundance of this material. It is no longer used only to produce everyday equipment such as phones or clothing; now, we’re finding it in our food. Recent studies have shown that microplastic has been found in human bodies and even breast milk. Is this an area of concern, or should we just accept the consequences of industrialisation?
We all know what plastic is, but microplastics are hardeer to navigate.. Microplastics are small (less than 5 mm long) pieces of plastic which can be found in food, cosmetics and even air. They are small enough for you to digest without even realising it. Microplastic finds its way into our bodies mostly via pre-packed food such as ready-to-eat meals and canned sodas. Microplastic can be small enough to diffuse into our bloodstream and cells and it has been recently discovered in the lungs of several patients during surgeries.
How Do Microplastics Impact Our Health?
This issue concerning microplastics is relatively new, so we lack the evidence to safely determine exactly how ingested microplastics might affect us. However, scientists have some plausible hypotheses about the negative impact. These hypotheses bring up, among others, the following point:
1. An increased risk of chronic inflammation leading to diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart conditions
2. Impaired immune system due to damage caused by chemicals to the gut and disrupted microbiota
hormonal imbalance caused by mimicking natural hormones (especially estrogen, testosterone and insulin) by chemicals in microplastic such as BPA
The unresolved question still remains whether all microplastics we ingest are later egested. If not, how long and where are they stored in the body? There is still a lot to explore in this area, but biomedical researchers are starting to claim that the findings of the research will likely be grim.
How Can You Avoid Eating Microplastics?
There is no doubt that at this point, it is impossible not to ingest some microplastics. However, there are steps we can take to minimize our intake of these harmful materials. First of all, we can limit intake of highly processed, pre-packed food as it is more likely to contact microplastics. When you can, you should also choose more eco-friendly packaging such as glass and stainless steel. Most importantly, try to avoid drinking bottled water as it is probably the most common source of microplastics.
Carrington, Damian. “Microplastics Found in Human Breast Milk for the First Time.” The Guardian, 7 Oct. 2022, www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/oct/07/microplastics-human-breast-milk-first-time.
Charles Alexis, Amber. “Microplastics in Food: Health Risks and Solutions.” Www.medicalnewstoday.com, 18 Feb. 2022, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-do-we-know-about-microplastics-in-food#The-bottom-line.
Ordoñez, Maya. “Microplastics and Health Risks: What Do We Really Know?” Medscape, 2 Nov. 2022, www.medscape.com/viewarticle/983421?icd=ssl_login_mismatch_gg_221103&isSocialFTC=true#vp_4.
Guim.co.uk, 2022, i.guim.co.uk/img/media/94a839f604b04207d85f1b1a36e8cd11eba97a7e/0_10_4448_2668/master/4448.jpg?width=1200&height=1200&quality=85&auto=format&fit=crop&s=b3dfc13271ee58ec6f73b23f38027ea6.