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Are you exposed to microplastics
 Feb 19, 2024|View:81

What does this headline make you think of? Plastic bottles that you use every day? Plastic handbags available everywhere? Plastic baby bottles? Plastic lunch boxes commonly used for takeout? When you think about it, you realize that plastic products surround us daily. They are no stranger to us .

But what are "microplastics?" Its name is quite self-explanatory , being one kind of plastic with a diameter of less than 5 millimeters. The concept of "microplastics" was first proposed by Thompson et al. at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom in 2004. At that time, microplastics were of great concern to society because of their widespread presence in the marine environment and the uncertain hazards they posed to living things.

In March 2022, a team of researchers from Vrije University Amsterdam in the Netherlands recruited 22 healthy subjects and after analyzing their venous bloodsamples, found that 77% (17) of the subjects had quantifiable microplastics in their blood, with values of up to 1.6 μg per milliliter of blood, the most common of which included plastics such as PET, PS, PE, PP, etc. (the same material as the soles of sneakers!!!), which also meant that microplastics may have spread throughout the human body.


So, the question arises, where do these microplastics come from? And how do they get into our bodies? Can we stop microplastics from entering our bodies by not using plastic products? The answer is surprising. Microplastics come to us in ways we could never have imagined.

tire wear:

Tire wear is the largest source of microplastics. We drive on the road every day in a variety of cars, relying on the friction between the tires and the ground of the wind and fire, unaware that this friction contributes to 50% of the "microplastic" particles.

Emissions during the waste disposal process

Emissions during the waste disposal process is the second largest source of microplastics. Twelve percent of microplastics are released into the atmosphere and water cycle while disposing of various recyclable or non-recyclable wastes.

Worn asphalt:

Worn asphalt is the third most significant source of microplastics; abrasive asphalt contributes nearly 10% of "microplastic" emissions. The above three sources contribute 72% of microplastic emissions, with the other 28% coming from familiar plastic products, plastic packaging, and even fiber abrasion from laundry.

What are the everyday household items that "carry" microplastics?

tea bags:

Canada's McGill University researchers selected four kinds of tea bags available in everyday life. Tea would be poured out of the tea bag first, soaking in hot water for five minutes. The results showed that the tea bags had evidence of cracking and degradation after immersion, while the water would had 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nano-plastic particles. If you drink a cup of tea bag, you will swallow at least 14 billion plastic particles.

Bottled water (various beverages with plastic packaging):

A paper in Environmental Science and Technology estimated that bottled water lovers take in an average of 578 microplastics daily and may ingest 211,000 annually. Note to lovers of milk tea and assorted beverages!

Baby bottles:

A paper in the journal of Nature Food states that baby bottles used by infants and young children are made of polypropylene plastic, from which children might soak up 16 million microplastic particles from powered milk each time.


Fruits, vegetables and meat products:

A study in Nature Sustainabilitystated that the roots of lettuce and wheat absorb microplastics from the soil and water, which then spread to the food itself. Fish in the oceans, in turn, ingest large amounts of microplastics in seawater every day as they eat and breathe, which in turn become food and enter the human body.

Tiny microplastic particles and fragments permeate the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the plastic products we touch every day, and then enter our bodies through diet, breathing, skin contact, etc., and reach all corners of our bodies along the whole body's circulatory system. In the long run, microplastics are quietly eating away at our health. Research has found that microplastics have four significant hazards:

They destroy the immune system:

After entering the body, microplastics will be transferred to the lymphatic circulatory system through the gastrointestinal system and then may enter the lung system, absorbed by the human body, which can easily lead to adverse reactions in the immune system and damage the health of the immune system.

Causes an inflammatory response:

Microplastics have been found to cause an inflammatory response and cellular damage in the body in several experiments.

Digestive tract damages:

Microplastics can cause different degrees of damage to the digestive system, damaging the viability of organisms in the body, enzyme activity, etc., which can easily lead to abnormalities in the function of the digestive tract.

Lead to cancer and other diseases:

Several international authoritative reports have pointed out that plastic contains a variety of chemical substances that will lead to endocrine system disruption, and makes it easy to induce cancer, reproductive diseases, diabetes, and other diseases.

Because of these known discoveries, the 5th United Nations Environment Assembly, Heads of State, Environment Ministers, and other representatives from 175 countries signed and adopted the (Draft) Resolution on Ending Plastic Pollution in the hope of reaching an international legally binding agreement by 2024 covering all aspects of the design, production, recycling and disposal of plastic products. Governments have acted. So, what can we do?

Try to take public transportation for daily travel, which can reduce microplastic emissions by 60% at source!

Replacing plastic bags with woven bags or cloth bags instead. Use environmentally friendly paper containers when drinking milk tea and ordering takeout, as plastic packaging would is harmful for the human body.

Pay attention to garbage classification. Plastic products and so on should be placed separately to facilitate getting to the right departments for further processing.

Pay attention to check the label of clothes when shopping. Try not to buy clothes with high polyester fiber content.

Use more biodegradable plastics if necessary. Such plastics are less harmful to our environment and our health compared to regular plastics.