Microplastics. We talk a lot about plastic, in general. We talk about single use (bad,) recycling, and reducing it. And yet we still rely on plastic; to package our food and goods for purchase, and after purchase, we wear it, we sleep in it, we cook in it, we store our food in it. It’s bad enough that we’ve been doing this for over a hundred years without ever thinking about the end of life of these things. Never thinking that plastic fails to degrade for hundreds of years. BUT. Even worse. What happens as it does begin to degrade? Microplastics.
There is no standard definition of microplastics because they aren’t standard. Different types of plastic break down differently, duh, and there are gazillions of types of plastic subjected to bazillions of different conditions that might cause them to shed, or harden, or erode away. When we say microplastic, we generally mean particles smaller than 5 millimeters— the size of a standard pencil eraser — but they get smaller than that as they degrade and they become virtually impossible to detect. These tiny bits are major contributors to plastic pollution and have spread everywhere in that hundred years.
There is now compelling evidence that there are microplastics in your bloodstream.
What does that mean? It’s really hard to say. The Dutch study that confirmed this stated that microplastics are "ubiquitous pollutants in the living environment and food chain" and found them in 77% of the volunteers studied. At this point it is really impossible to reach a conclusion as to whether this has an impact on our health. It merely reinforces what we already had guessed. This particular genie is out of the bottle and won’t be going back in any time soon.
Think about it. You are ingesting plastic microparticles with every microwaved-in-single-use-plastic entree you consume. Swallowing microplastics with your salad and sandwich. They’re in your tap water. You are most likely breathing in nanoparticles of plastic. Ewwwwwwwwww.
In the laboratory this does not seem to be good news. Human cells have died and exhibited allergic type reactions to microplastics under laboratory conditions. This is far from evidence that plastic causes irreparable harm because it’s so stinking impossible to measure all the possible variations. We may simply excrete the majority of what we ingest without it affecting us at all. At this point all we know is, it’s definitely everywhere including in us.
Humanity has this unattractive habit of doing a thing without considering the possible consequences of said thing. The consequences of our continued unsustainable use of plastic will continue to play out on Mother Earth for thousands of years. It will also continue to play out in the human condition- our health, well being, and life span - for generations.
It’s past time to be proactive about this issue. Stop buying plastic and products sold in plastic. A movement starts with you.