Microplastics in soil

Microplastics: Harming Our Food Chain

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in size, originating from a variety of sources. 

Major Sources

  • the fragmentation of larger plastic debris – bottles, bags, and fishing nets, which break down due to environmental exposure. 
  • microbeads are found in personal care products like toothpaste, exfoliants, and cosmetics. These small plastic particles are washed down the drain and often escape water treatment facilities, ending up in natural water bodies.
  • when washed, synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon shed tiny fibres that make their way into waterways. 
  • car tyres wear down over time, releasing microplastics from synthetic rubber onto roads; these are then washed away by rain into drainage systems.
  • Industrial processes, including producing and transporting plastic pellets (nurdles), result in accidental spills, contributing further to microplastic pollution. Paints, both household and industrial, can degrade and release plastic particles into the environment.
  • single-use plastics and packaging materials, prevalent in consumer goods, are a substantial source of microplastics. As these items degrade, they fragment into smaller particles, adding to the microplastic load in the environment.

Check your toothpaste or other personal care products for tiny microbeads. These plastic specks of polyethylene don’t just rinse away; they stay in your mouth and then wash into the sea when you spit them out. Marine life consumes them, leading to significant ecological consequences.

Dentists were amongst the first to notice and raise the issue of microbeads in patients’ mouths.

The Problem Doesn’t Stop There

Fish swallow these microbeads and are later caught. The beads end up back on your dinner plate for you to ingest once again.

In 2014, Procter & Gamble (Crest) claimed their FDA-approved toothpaste ingredients were safe. One wonders what they were thinking when they made that assertion. Under pressure from growing consumer awareness, P&G agreed to remove all polyethylene microbeads by 2016.

But this raises questions:

  • Why did they add polyethylene in the first place?
  • Once the issue was discovered, why did it take so long to remove the microbeads?

Anyone who used this toothpaste up until 2016 should consider what they’ve been putting in their mouth. 

There’s a worrying difference between “safe” and “FDA safe.”

Public awareness about such issues often takes time to reach a tipping point. Ultra-processed foods are now widely discussed as causes of disease and death—a conversation that wouldn’t have happened a few years ago.

Microplastics: Harming Our Food Chain

There’s Plastic In My Plaque!

Using spectroscopy, microplastics are now being found in human lung tissue, in blood, coronary artery plaques as well as testicles of humans and dogs.

A major contributory cause of declining sperm counts?

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The Recycling Myth

The notion of recycling plastics originated from the same industry that supplies the oil to produce them. They sold us an impossible dream just as we began to worry about the billions of plastic particles choking our planet.

A team of scientists sampled wastewater from a state-of-the-art recycling plant in the UK. They found that the microplastics released in the water amounted to 13% of the plastic processed and concluded that the facility could be releasing up to 75 billion plastic particles in each cubic metre of wastewater and thus the environment. 

Oh yes, and microbeads have made their way into the soil, contaminating the vegetables and plants that grow from it.

We now have terrifying evidence that people may be ingesting 49.5 grams of plastic from their plastic chopping boards.

It’s time to ditch plastic and embrace wood and bamboo boards. Switching to sustainable alternatives like wood and bamboo isn’t just a choice – it’s a necessity for the health of our planet and future generations. 

But the story gets even more troubling.

We’ve been duped into believing that recycling is a viable solution when, in reality, it’s a tactic to keep us complacent while the plastic pollution crisis worsens. It’s high time we make a real change.

Some tips to lessen the ingestion of microplastics:

  1. Choose Plastic-Free Products: Opt for personal care products that are free from microbeads. Look for labels that indicate “microbead-free” or “all-natural ingredients.”
  2. Avoid Single-Use Plastics: Reduce your use of single-use plastics such as water bottles, plastic bags, and straws. Use reusable alternatives like stainless steel bottles, cloth bags, and metal or bamboo straws.
  3. Filter Your Water: Install a high-quality water filter at home that states that it can remove microplastics from your drinking water. Some advanced filtration systems are designed to capture even the smallest particles.
  4. Eat Less Seafood: Since microplastics are prevalent in marine life, opt for seafood from cleaner, controlled environments.
  5. Support Legislation: Advocate for and support legislation that aims to reduce plastic pollution and ban the use of microplastics in products. Your voice can help drive policy changes at local and national levels.
  6. Spread Awareness: Share information about the dangers of microplastics with friends, family, and your community. Increased awareness can lead to more collective action.
  7. Reduce Synthetic Clothing: Choose natural fibres. Washing synthetic fabrics can release microplastics into the water supply. If you do wash synthetic clothing, use a laundry bag designed to capture microfibers.
  8. Be Mindful of Packaging: Choose products with minimal or eco-friendly packaging. Many companies now offer packaging made from biodegradable or recyclable materials.
  9. Participate in Clean-Up Efforts: Join local beach and river clean-up activities to help remove plastic waste from the environment and prevent it from breaking down into microplastics.
  10. Support Research and Innovation: Back companies and research initiatives that are developing new ways to tackle plastic pollution and create sustainable alternatives.

By implementing these actions, you can significantly reduce your exposure to microplastics and contribute to a healthier environment.

Dr Elmar Jung

dr-elmar-jung.com

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