A new Enemy: Microplastics. Here are 7 effective ways you can save yourself

by | Jun 10, 2024 | Nutrition, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Do you know this new enemy that is on the rise? Just look around you and try to notice how many plastic things are present around you. The plates you eat in, the bottles you drink water from, the pen you write with… almost 70% of the things around you are made of plastic or have some of their parts made of plastic. 

Although plastic was introduced in the mid-19th century, its extended production and usage are now becoming a serious threat to the environment and mankind.

What are Microplastics?

Microplastics, a term you may not be familiar with, are minute plastic particles measuring less than 5mm in size. They are not visible to the naked eye, but they are everywhere, posing serious threats to our health and our world.

Plastic’s affordability, durability, lightweight, and malleability make it suitable for various applications. Yet, its drawbacks are becoming increasingly apparent. Large quantities of plastics flow into rivers and seas, negatively impacting marine environments and economic activity.

Microplastics are not just a distant threat. They are in our homes, in our bodies. Plastic ingestion happens not just through the food and water we consume. Microplastics can even be inhaled through the air. They have been found in human lungs, blood, and, most alarmingly, in breast milk storage bags. Not even our infants are safe anymore.

Microplastics in Lungs:

Plastic ingestion occurs not only through the food and water we use; microplastics can even be inhaled through the air.

In a groundbreaking 2022 research, scientists were the first to find plastic in human lungs. They found microplastic in every part of the human lung, from the bronchi to the alveoli. This study was a preliminary step towards connecting microplastics to respiratory symptoms and illness.

These particles, released into the air through various sources such as tyre wear, plastic degradation, and industrial processes, can be inhaled and potentially deposited in the respiratory system.

Microplastics in a flask

Microplastics in Blood:

Another published study discovered microplastic in human blood. In fact, 17 of 22 blood samples from healthy adult subjects, a significant majority, were positive for plastic.

These contained PET traces, which are often used to make drink bottles. Aside from that, the scientists discovered polystyrene and polyethene. Polystyrene is used for food containers, while polyethene has other applications (for example, packaging).

Microplastics in Breast Milk:

Unfortunately, Studies have even discovered plastic in breast milk storage bags. Using these bags may expose infants to particles ranging from 0.61 to 0.89 mg per day.

The detrimental effects of microplastics on human health:

Scientists are still looking into how microplastics affect humans, and they’re making progress.

In recent years, an increasing number of studies have released frightening findings. These researches leave no question regarding microplastics’ influence on human health.

According to WWF, humans may consume an average of 5 grams of microplastics every week, equal to ingesting a credit card.

The most crucial point is that no matter how these microplastics reach the human body, they are recognised as foreign particles, and the body’s immune system may respond. This reaction is comparable to the one your body has while fighting viruses or bacteria. 

The body attempts to fight off the foreign substance, which can result in fever, inflammation and immune system disturbance.  

Scientists have connected microplastic exposure to a variety of health issues. These include cancer, severe immunological responses, and problems with fertility.

Plastic also has harmful compounds introduced during manufacture or absorbed from the environment. These compounds may have devastating consequences.

Fillers, lubricants, dyes, and other plastic additives are classified as endocrine disruptors, which interfere with our hormonal systems. These chemicals may cause cancerous tumours, developmental disorders, or congenital disabilities.

Microplastics

Sources of Microplastics:

There are several sources of microplastics reaching us. They may be water sources, through soil, or other sources.

Water Sources: 

 

Microplastics reach us from everywhere. In fact, a staggering 14 billion tons of microplastic is already present in the oceans, and this number is only increasing. 

If we discard the plastic items we use regularly, they degrade with time, eventually turning into microplastic, which ends up in waterways like oceans, lakes, and rivers.

These microplastic particles are so small that they can’t even be filtered through filtration plants and reach us in drinking water.

Marine animals also ingest these microplastics; when we eat seafood, these microplastics reach us through seafood.

Soil sources:

 

If plastic is dumped into the soil for degradation, it contaminates the soil, and plants growing in that soil will also contain microplastics absorbed by their root systems.

So if the microplastics are getting into fruits and vegetables, it’s getting into every human and animal consuming these veggies and fruits. It means microplastics are also present in the meat and dairy we consume.

Microplastics as food

Contamination from sources:

 

Another significant source of contamination is the food packaging or plastic utensils you use.

Hot food causes the release of microplastics, which get mixed in food and drinks and reach your body when you eat them.

The bottled beverages are a significant source of microplastics from the bottle itself and the cap.

Researchers discovered that a staggering 93 per cent of the bottles they examined, including popular brands, had an average of 10.4 particles of microplastics per litre

This means that even if you’re drinking bottled water, you’re likely consuming microplastics.

Some personal care products, e.g., toothpaste and scrubs, also contain microplastics to produce extra scrubbing and exfoliating effects.

How to save yourself from Microplastics:

Trying to save yourself from microplastics is difficult but not impossible. It requires continuous efforts and commitment. Sticking to an organic diet and focusing on a healthy lifestyle may help the body’s natural detoxification process.

Avoid Using Plastic:

 

A simple way to save yourself from microplastics is to avoid using plastics.

Try to live a simple life. 

Use reusable glass water bottles instead of plastic bottled water. 

Food ordered from outside usually comes in styrofoam containers, which release a large amount of microplastics and chemicals. By using your own glass or aluminium containers, you can save yourself from a lot of microplastics.

You can also keep a coffee mug with you to avoid taking coffee in disposable mugs made of plastic. 

Also, avoiding plastic cutlery and plastic bags may protect you from microplastics. You can use paper and cloth bags instead.

Canned food usually comes in plastic containers. You can avoid them by searching for them in a glass container, which is way safer.

Say no to single-use plastics: 

 

When possible, reusable bags for groceries and paper packaging should be chosen to minimise exposure to microplastics, avoid contaminated food, and reduce plastic use. 

Opt for glass over plastic bottles and fresh meat instead of prepacked options. Explore bulk stores and markets for plastic-free alternatives. 

By making these small changes, you can significantly reduce your exposure to microplastics and contribute to a healthier environment.

Plastic water bottles are a significant source of microplastics in the human body, with studies indicating that 93% of bottled water contains these particles. 

Opting for tap water, despite its microplastic content, is a better alternative, which can be further improved by using water filters to minimise contaminant exposure.

Use filters that are currently on the market and readily available. Tap filters specifically designed to reduce microplastics by blocking them before the water comes out of the tap can be found. 

These filters have been tested in independent laboratories and proven to reduce suspended particles as small as 0.1 µm that may be present in tap water. So, whenever you want, simply turn on your kitchen tap and fill a glass with great-tasting water that’s free from undesirable substances such as microplastics.

The same technology is also available for jugs. In addition to microplastics, these filters usually block other undesirable substances, such as chlorine, sand and rust, herbicides and pesticides, and other suspended fragments.

A new Enemy: Microplastics. Here are 7 ways you can save yourself<br />

Free your kitchen from Plastics:

 

Your kitchen is a primary source of microplastic exposure, with plastic containers leaching chemicals into food and vice versa. Plastic dishwashing items also release microplastics, contaminating tableware.

Opt for natural alternatives like brushes and loofah sponges to reduce exposure to harmful substances and minimise ingestion of microplastics.

Watch your clothing and laundry:

 

The fast fashion sector contributes over 30% to global plastic production and is a significant source of microplastics. 

Opting for natural fibres like cotton diminishes the industry’s plastic footprint and reduces household microplastic exposure. 

Microfiber clothing sheds during washing, releasing microplastics into water and machine residues. Microfiber filters mitigate laundry-related microplastic pollution, safeguarding health and the environment. 

Eco-friendly laundry practices minimise exposure to such shedding, offering health benefits and cost savings.

Adopt Plastic-free self-care products:

 

Transitioning to plastic-free self-care products benefits personal health and promotes environmental sustainability. By adopting alternatives such as bamboo toothbrushes, reusable cotton pads, and stainless steel razors, individuals reduce their reliance on single-use plastics, which contribute significantly to pollution and harm marine life. 

Embracing plastic-free options minimises exposure to harmful chemicals found in traditional products, promoting healthier skin care and hygiene routines. Additionally, it aligns with eco-conscious values, fostering a sense of responsibility towards the planet. 

Through small changes in self-care choices, individuals contribute to a more significant movement towards a cleaner, greener future for future generations.

A new Enemy: Microplastics. Here are 7 ways you can save yourself<br />

Prioritise organic diet free of microplastics:

 

An organic diet is vital for staying healthy and helping the environment. When we eat organic foods, we avoid harmful chemicals used in conventional farming. These chemicals can end up in our bodies and harm our health. Plus, organic farming methods are kinder to the Earth. 

They help keep our soil and water clean, which means fewer harmful substances in our environment. By choosing organic, we take care of ourselves and do our part in protecting nature. It’s a win-win for our bodies and the planet we call home.

Engaging in healthy Activities:

 

Adopting a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise can significantly impact our overall health. It can also help us understand the importance of living a simple lifestyle and avoiding artificial life full of plastics, which is not only dangerous for humans but also a big threat to the ecosystem. 

By embracing an active and health-conscious lifestyle, individuals improve their well-being and contribute to the collective effort to reduce microplastics and protect the environment for future generations.

Engaging in activities like gardening, composting, or buying locally sourced organic foods encourages sustainable practices that reduce reliance on single-use plastics in packaging and food production, ultimately decreasing environmental microplastic contamination.

Incorporating physical activities like beach clean-ups or participating in environmental campaigns raises awareness about the harmful effects of plastic pollution. It fosters a sense of responsibility towards preserving natural habitats, including reducing microplastic pollution.

Swimming and Calisthenics:

 

Engaging in activities like swimming in open waters and practising callisthenics with non-plastic gym equipment can help minimise microplastic exposure.

Opting for outdoor swimming locations away from urban areas reduces the likelihood of encountering water contaminated with microplastics from urban runoff or plastic waste. 

Similarly, choosing callisthenics routines that utilise non-plastic equipment, such as wooden or metal bars, instead of synthetic materials helps decrease the shedding of microplastics commonly associated with plastic-based exercise gear. 

By incorporating these lifestyle choices, individuals not only promote personal health through exercise but also contribute to reducing their environmental impact by minimising the release and ingestion of microplastics.

Make a Better World, Say NO to Plastic:

 

Living in a world saturated with plastic, we are bound to encounter it in various aspects of our lives. Plastic surrounds us, whether in the packaging of our food, the materials of our household items, or the synthetic fibres of our clothing.

While scientists continue to study the risks of plastic exposure, microplastics, even in breast milk, should raise alarm bells. It’s a clear signal that we need to rethink our daily habits.

As consumers, we have the power to choose products that minimise our exposure to unsafe plastics. We send a strong message to producers and regulators by opting for alternatives and supporting plastic-free options.

Our choices drive change, encouraging them to adopt more sustainable practices. 

Each step towards reducing plastic consumption creates a healthier, safer world for ourselves and future generations. Let’s embrace this power and make a difference, one decision at a time.

Take Away:

 

Microplastics, tiny plastic particles, pervade our environment, posing severe health risks. Despite their invisible nature, they are present in everyday items and even inhaled through the air. 

Studies have found microplastics in human lungs, blood, and breast milk, underscoring the urgency to address this issue. These particles can trigger immune responses, leading to inflammation and potentially severe health issues. 

Sources of microplastics include water sources, soil, and contamination from food packaging. 

However, adopting simple lifestyle changes can help reduce exposure. Avoiding single-use plastics, opting for organic diets, and engaging in plastic-free activities like swimming and callisthenics are effective measures.

By collectively advocating for plastic-free alternatives and making conscious choices, we can mitigate the harmful effects of microplastics and create a safer, healthier world for generations to come.

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