Microplastics in Humans?!
This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about microplastics. At the rate which plastic consumption continues on this planet, it probably won’t be our last.
Plastic is some of the toughest and most resilient material we use for packaging. The downside: it’s so resilient that it literally doesn’t biodegrade. It slowly poisons our water, our bodies, and the environment.
And it sticks around…forever.
However, scientists have recently found out some new things about plastics.
Plastic does break down. But, it still doesn’t go away— it just gets exponentially smaller and smaller, creating what are called microplastics, which are fast becoming insidious and omnipresent.
If you thought plastics were a problem…you could say microplastics are the REAL problem, presenting a very imposing challenge to get rid of them.
They’ve already been found in pristine natural environments and wildlife, as well as being involuntarily consumed by us humans and found in our digestive systems and fecal matter.
Just recently, though, two 2022 studies found microplastics in the human body: both in the bloodstream and in lung tissue.
This is a HUGE concern to public health and about our continued reliance and use of plastics.
While scientists say it’s not cleared by research yet how microplastics could affect our health…
…we can all say it’s pretty easy to guess: it’s not for the better.
Without research on microplastics, we already know enough about how intact plastics could harm us.
Plastics are already known to:
Increase risk of cancer
Cause hormone disruption and imbalance
Damage to gut and microbiome
Affect our soils to deplete nutrition from our foods
Now that it’s proven microplastics can find their way inside our bodies…
…what can we do to avoid them?
While the task of avoiding microplastics will become more and more daunting the longer we live in a plastic-filled world, here are some of the most effective things you can do, according to Popular Science:
Avoid plastics altogether (especially on food or drinks).
This is one of the foremost, most common, and highest contamination contact points that can expose your body to microplastics. Plastic wrap, bottles, BPA-lined cans, containers, etc. that are broken open or ripped— and then contact your food— can deposit harmful microplastics, which you then go on to eat. It’s not yet clear which kind of plastic is worse for microplastics, so it’s wise to steer clear of all.
Avoid having synthetic fabrics and carpets indoors.
Besides food or drink plastic wrapping and containers, the second most likely source to expose you to microplastics is right within your own home: from synthetically made furniture, carpets, even clothing and blankets that are chock-full of microplastics and microfibers. If you have these, you can slowly begin to replace them— if you can and are able to, find non-synthetic, non-plastic alternatives right away.
Boost ventilation, cleaning, and air purification in your home.
While in the process of switching over to non-microplastic and non-microfiber furniture and goods, you can make better efforts to ventilate and clean your home. Give your central air an update, or sweep and vacuum more regularly, which is known to help.
Spend more time outdoors.
Having more access to outdoor air— which is comparatively far less contaminated with microplastics— is definitely worth a try as well.
Try to change policy.
This may be the most effective tactic for avoiding microplastics and for taking things a step further: preventing their existence.
Talk to your local (and national) politicians about how you feel about microplastics and the threats they pose to your health. Get involved in organizations that attempt to change the policy around plastic manufacturing, such as the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Ocean Blue Project, or my dear friend Petrice's organization: The One Movement.
The One Movement collects ocean plastic and turns it into sustainable building materials to create new homes for those who need them.
Feel free to leave a comment with other organizations you like and support.