How do microplastics affect humans?

For the first time ever microplastics have been found in human stools. It has long been speculated that microplastics were in our food chain but this discovery has confirmed it 100%. A small study was conducted on only 8 participants from the EU, Russia and Japan. All 8 were found to have had microplastics pass through their system. The particles ranged from 50 to 500 micrometers with polyethylene and polypropylene were the most common found.

Polyethylene – Used for cosmetic bottles, plastic bags, kids toys and many other items. One of the most popular and versatile plastics in the world.

Polypropylene – Used for consumer packaging and small plastic parts for various industries.

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For every 10g of human waste from the participants, an average 20 particles were found. The author of the study theorised that based on this up to 50% of the population could also have microplastics in their stool. He did stress more studies would be needed to confirm this.

Every year 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into our ocean and while steps have been made to stop this such as the banning of microbeads in cosmetic use, campaigns from big organisations such as the UN and Greenpeace and the EU banning to use of single use plastics as of as of 2021 we can still be doing more now.

Another study conducted by the University of Hull and Brunel University of London found that mussels, that have a natural filter system had a high number of microplastic particles. When studying microplastics in mussels, for every 100 grams there was 70 particles of microplastics.

ocean plastic

Microplastics in fish and other wildlife has been known for some time and a lot of marine wildlife has died due to ingesting plastic. For now we do not know the effect of humans consuming microplastics and we may not know for a long time yet.

While microbeads for cosmetic use was banned in 2018 they may still be in a lot of our bathrooms. No one is forcing people to use these products that remain. While yes it may seem wasteful to go into a landfill it does prevent microbeads in going into our ocean. I made that choice this morning while staying at my family home. I read the ingredients and did not use it.

For other plastics such as packing we should be ensuring we are recycling all we can and for what we can’t, making sure it is disposed of responsibly. Plastic does break down in our ocean and what was one piece of plastic could turn into hundreds or thousands of particles over time.

It’s likely we will not really know the true impact of humans ingesting microplastic until someone is hurt or worse. Studies will continue but it will take time before we see results. In the meantime, we can all make One Change Now by reducing our use of plastic and being wary of what products we use. Educating others and spreading the message that we need to product our oceans and planet as a whole.

What I do doesn’t make a difference… said 7 billion people.

 

Related blogs:

What are microbeads?
How long does it take for plastic to decompose?
Ocean Plastic – What can we do today?
12 alternatives to single use plastic.

 

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