There really isn’t anything more depressing than recent news stories of whales washing up on shore with their stomachs bursting with plastic. But there is more to plastic pollution problem than the waste we can see.
Microplastics have been a topic of conversation for the last few years as researchers are learning more and more about their increased presence in our atmosphere and how they affect our health. And recent studies have shown that drinking filtered or bottled water makes little difference from tap water when it comes to avoiding microplastics. It’s in the air we breathe and the food we eat. A recent reports also claim that 90% of table salt contains microbeads as well.
The problem with plastic (as we all know too well) is that it takes anywhere from 10-10,000 years to biodegrade (depending on the type of plastic). And it can be deceiving because what plastic does in the meantime is photodegrade. Meaning that it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces from exposure to the elements until what we have is microplastic pieces or microbeads.
Microbeads have also been used in cosmetic, beauty, and health products although some countries have introduced legislation banning them from being used. You’d probably be surprised to learn how many products use or have used microbeads.
These tiny pieces of plastic can be invisible to our naked eyes (anything less than 5 millimeters in length is considered a microplastic) and there isn’t a ton of research telling us how it’s going to affect our health, ecosystems, and plant.
We do know that wildlife and marine animals easily mistake microplastics for food and that it can even be fatal for smaller animals.
But what about us? We’ve produced about 9 billion tonnes of plastic in the last century or so and now it’s almost impossible to avoid ingesting plastic in some way daily. It’s been estimated that we digest 2,000 pieces of tiny plastic in our table salt alone every year! And although we know that plastic or chemicals used in plastic can be toxic, we likely won’t know what all this microplastic in our system will do to our health for many years. Preliminary studies on mice have shown that microplastics accumulate in the body and can be toxic for the digestive system, lungs, and brain.
Some experts have theorized that these small pieces of plastic can be detrimental to our guts while others argue that the real threat is the accumulation of plastics in our systems.
Is there anything you can do until we know more about all of this plastic? Yes- experts have recommended that we eat a healthy diet that supports our body’s ability to flush out toxins. (Time to load up on cilantro and spirulina!)
And cut down on your own plastic use! Make use of that stainless steel water bottle, beeswax food wrap, and soft cotton tote bag.
Want to read more about our diet, lifestyle choices, and our planet? Reach our article on why you might want to consider going vegan!