Top 4 Micro Plastics Facts You Should Know
by Jahmorly Reynolds on Jun 30, 2023
Micro plastics have become a significant concern in recent years due to their pervasive presence in the environment and potential impact on ecosystems and human health. These tiny plastic particles, measuring less than 5 millimeters in size, can be found in various forms, from micro beads in personal care products to fragmented pieces of larger plastic debris.
What are Micro Plastics
Micro plastics are small plastic particles that are either intentionally manufactured at small sizes or result from the breakdown of larger plastic items. They are categorized into two main types: primary micro plastics and secondary micro plastics. Primary micro plastics are purposefully produced at small sizes for various applications, such as micro beads in cosmetics or synthetic fibers in clothing. Secondary micro plastics are formed when larger plastic items, like bottles or bags, degrade into smaller fragments due to environmental factors like sunlight and mechanical stress.
1. Sources of Micro Plastics
Micro plastics enter the environment through various sources, including:
- Plastic Pollution: Large plastic items, such as bottles, bags, and packaging materials, break down over time into micro plastics.
- Micro beads: Micro beads, often found in personal care products like face scrubs and toothpaste, are tiny plastic particles added for exfoliation purposes.
- Synthetic Fiber Shedding: Synthetic fabrics like polyester release micro plastic fibers during washing, which eventually find their way into water bodies.
- Industrial Processes: Industrial activities, such as plastic production, contribute to the release of micro plastics into the environment.
2. Environmental Impact of Micro plastics
Micro plastics pose a significant threat to the environment, impacting various ecosystems:
- Marine Life: Aquatic organisms, ranging from small plankton to large marine mammals, can mistakenly consume micro plastics, leading to internal injuries, blockages, and potential death.
- Food Chain Contamination: Micro plastics can enter the food chain when organisms that have ingested them are consumed by larger predators, potentially affecting human health.
- Water and Soil Contamination: Micro plastics have been found in drinking water sources and agricultural soils, raising concerns about their potential long-term effects on ecosystems and food production.
3. Human Health Effects of Micro plastics
While the full extent of the impact of micro plastics on human health is still being researched, some potential concerns have emerged:
- Ingestion: Micro plastics can enter the human body through ingestion of contaminated food and water. They may accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract and have the potential to cause inflammation or other adverse effects.
- Chemical Contamination: Micro plastics can absorb and accumulate toxic chemicals from the surrounding environment. When ingested, these chemicals could be released in the body, potentially leading to health issues.
- Respiratory Exposure: Micro plastic fibers present in the air may be inhaled, which could have respiratory health implications, although further research is needed to understand the extent of this risk.
4. Mitigating Microplastics Pollution
Addressing micro plastics pollution requires a multi-faceted approach involving individuals, industries, and governments:
- Reducing Plastic Consumption: Minimizing the use of single-use plastics and opting for reusable alternatives can help reduce the overall generation of microplastics.
- Wastewater Treatment: Improving wastewater treatment processes can help capture and remove microplastics before they enter water bodies.
- Product Innovation: Developing eco-friendly alternatives to microbeads and synthetic fibers can reduce the release of primary microplastics into the environment.
- Regulations and Policies: Implementing stricter regulations on plastic production, usage, and waste management can help mitigate micro plastics pollution on a larger scale.