Tiny particles called microplastics can enter our bodies without us realizing it. We encounter them every day during our morning routine of washing our faces, using lotion, drinking water, and brushing our teeth. These particles, which measure less than 5 mm, can enter our body in different ways: by eating, breathing or touching.
Microplastics is everywhere
Microplastics are not only found in the food we eat and the water we drink, but also in cosmetic products such as face washes and creams. They are often in the shape of small spheres and are used in many health and beauty items. Although they are small, they can contain harmful chemicals.
A common chemical in microplastics is called polyethylene, and it has been linked to serious health problems like cancer, heart disease, and problems with a baby’s development before birth.
When we use cosmetics or toothpaste with microplastics, they can absorb into our skin, potentially damaging the outer layer. Scientists are studying whether these particles can penetrate deeper into our skin, which could be a long-term problem.
Breathing in microplastics is another way we can be exposed to them. They can accumulate in our respiratory system, pass into our bloodstream, and even reach our brain. Researchers have found microplastics in the lung tissue of humans, suggesting they could be linked to respiratory problems. Our bodies have a natural way of clearing our airways, but some microplastics can stay in our lungs and cause inflammation, especially if we already have breathing problems.
Microplastics in the air
Microplastics aren’t just indoors; they can also be found abroad. Indoor air can have up to 28 times more microplastics than outdoor air. These particles come from things like synthetic textiles and plastic items that we use every day. Even when we go to the beach to get some fresh air, microplastics can be carried by sea breezes and splashes. An estimated 136,000 tons of microplastics are released into the air from the ocean each year.
Microplastics can travel long distances in the air. Studies have shown that they can travel up to 95 kilometers. These tiny airborne particles can contain toxic chemicals such as polyethylene, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate. But we still need more information about what happens to microplastics in the air and the risks they pose.
With the increased use of single-use plastics, such as face masks, during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to study the impact of microplastics on our health. The mismanagement of plastic waste has caused problems for the environment. Plastics break down into microplastics and nanoplastics, which harm marine life, animals, and eventually humans.
How microplastics affect humans
To understand how microplastics affect humans, we need collaboration between ecologists, pathologists, and epidemiologists. We also need accurate information about how much exposure we have to microplastics. Governments should consider policies to reduce plastic waste both nationally and internationally.
So far, only a few studies have looked at the connection between microplastics and human health. On average, people can ingest 0.1 to 5 grams of microplastics each week through different sources, such as food, drink, breathing, and contact. These tiny particles can carry various pollutants such as chemicals, metals, medicines, pesticides, and other harmful substances.
Contaminants in microplastics have been linked to diseases such as hormonal problems, heart and reproductive problems, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. We urgently need to find out how many microplastics we consume and what impact they have on our bodies.
Higher risk of microplastic consumption
Some people are more at risk of consuming microplastics than others. People who eat a lot of shellfish, drink bottled water, or have a high-calorie diet may be more exposed. Those who frequently eat and drink from plastic packaging are at risk because microplastics can be generated in the plastic.
The average amount of microplastics that people ingest varies around the world. Estimates suggest that each person could potentially consume between 11,845 and 193,200 microplastics per year, with drinking water being the main source. Inhalation of microplastics through aerosols and household dust is also a high risk.
It is also possible that people in regions with little reliance on plastic products, better waste management facilities, quality water sources, and good policies regarding health and food safety are less at risk of exposure to microplastics compared to people from places that are still developing in these areas.
It is necessary to collect more detailed data on other food groups consumed on a daily basis (oils, meat, pasta, bread, corn, wheat, rice, milk, etc., water, milk, rice, wheat, corn).
The toxicity of ingested microplastics will also be further investigated in terms of size, mass, polymer and shape, and determine the extent to which microplastics travel from cooking and eating utensils (especially by children) and even in food packaging.
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