What are microplastics and where have they been found?

It can now be said that microplastics are everywhere. From the most remote — such as the bottom of the sea and the peak of Mount Everest — to within us, showing how plastic is one of the most invasive materials that exist.

Have you ever heard of microplastics? They are small plastic particles that appear in the environment and may pose a risk to our health.

Therefore, understand its effects and how to reduce the proliferation of microplastics.

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are small plastic particles that are up to 5 millimeters long. 

They can either be manufactured in this size — these are the pellets used in cosmetics and personal hygiene items — or be the result of the degeneration of larger “pieces” of plastic due to the action of nature.

In other words, that plastic thrown on the street or forgotten in the beach sand — instead of being correctly discarded in the trash or sent for recycling, as the Recicla Orla collective does — suffers from the action of water, sun, winds and microorganisms and can end up anywhere, including inside our body.

How do microplastics end up in the environment? 

There are several ways microplastics can end up in the environment. One of the main ways is through the discharge of wastewater into rivers, lakes and oceans. 

Additionally, they are present in personal care products, such as scrubs and toothpaste. However, they are often too small to filter through wastewater treatment plants, which will mean they will eventually be released into the environment.

Another way microplastics end up in the environment is through the breakdown of larger plastic items. plastic, such as bottles, bags and packaging. 

When you expose these items to sun, wind and other natural elements, they will begin to break down into small pieces of plastic, which will eventually be carried by water and wind into rivers, lakes and oceans.

Furthermore, they will release environment during the manufacturing process of plastic products. 

As the machines and equipment used to produce plastic products wear out, small pieces of plastic can break off and end up in the environment.

What problems do microplastics cause?

Microplastics can affect marine life, as animals end up ingesting these particles and, over time, they accumulate in their bodies. 

This can lead to health problems such as inflammation and obstruction of the digestive tract, and even death. 

Microplastics can alter the behavior of animals, interfering with their reproduction and feeding processes.

In addition to impacts on fauna, microplastics can also affect human health.

To combat this problem, it is important to take action to reduce the amount we release into the environment.

One option is to opt for products without this type of material, such as natural exfoliants or clothes made with organic materials. Furthermore, it is important to dispose of waste correctly, recycling plastic whenever possible.

Microplastics in humans? Know the risks

We inhale microplastics, ingest them or even absorb them through our skin, which can lead to a range of health problems. 

They can cause inflammation, respiratory problems, affect the central nervous system and even increase the risk of cancer.

Microplastic contamination is not just a problem in developed countries, as pollution is a global problem. It is important that people are aware of the risk these particles pose and take measures to minimize exposure.

Some tips for reducing exposure to microplastics include avoiding the use of beauty products that contain microbeads, opting for natural clothing instead of synthetic ones, and reducing the consumption of foods packaged in plastic. 

Furthermore, it is important to pressure companies and governments to take measures to reduce the production and use of plastics.

More studies are still needed to understand the possible risk of microplastics to human health, as it is not known how long microplastics stay in our bodies before being excreted. But there are already some clues: a 2021 study showed that, in the laboratory, the material can cause cell death and allergic reactions.

Where microplastic has been found?

  • Seabed
  • Marine fauna
  • Mount Everest
  • Glaciers
  • Potable water
  • Beer
  • Placenta of a pregnant woman
  • human blood
  • human lung

5 solutions to the microplastics problem

There are a few ways to avoid the microplastic problem. Check out some tips:

  1. Reducing the use of single-use plastic: The main source of microplastics is single-use plastic products. To reduce the amount of microplastics in the oceans, we must reduce the use of these products and replace them with more sustainable alternatives.
  2. Plastic recycling: Plastic recycling is one of the most effective solutions to reduce the amount of microplastics in the oceans. When you recycle plastic, it will be turned into new products, and prevent it from ending up in landfills or oceans.
  3. Wastewater filtration: Wastewater treatment plants can filter microplastics in water before they are discharged into the oceans. This solution is more effective in urban areas, where the amount of discarded plastic is greater.
  4. Education and awareness: education is a powerful tool to combat the microplastics problem. We must educate people about the importance of reducing the use of single-use plastics and how to dispose of them correctly. Furthermore, it is important to raise awareness about the impact of microplastics on marine life and the environment in general.
  5. Encouraging innovation: It is important to encourage innovation and the development of more sustainable technologies for the production and disposal of plastics. Research and development of biodegradable and compostable materials is essential to reduce the amount of plastics in the environment and prevent the formation of microplastics
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