Microplastics: 6 Ways to Avoid Them and Why It Matters
Microplastics might be itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, but they pose a massive environmental problem.
What are microplastics?
Microplastics are small plastic pieces measuring less than 5 millimeters.
You can find them in synthetic textiles like fleece and polyester, car tires, city dust, road markings, marine coatings, and personal care products such as exfoliants, body washes, masks, and even toothpaste.
Why are microplastics problematic?
An estimated 800 trillion microplastics get washed down the drain every year, and because water treatment plants are not designed to handle them, most of them end up in our rivers and lakes.
Because of their size, microplastics are often mistaken for food by fish and other wildlife, transferring toxins and pesticides into their bodies. Then inevitably, these microplastics make their way up the food chain to other animals, including humans.
Scientists are now reporting billions of microscopic plastic particles in the Great Lakes, the home of 20% of the world’s freshwater.
We’re able to find microplastics by dragging a finely meshed netting behind boats, but they’re difficult to clean up because they’re so tiny.
As a result, they accumulate in the water over time and wreak havoc on our environment.
How do microplastics affect human health?
We’ve known that microplastics cause inflammation, infertility, and cancer in animals, but little research has been done on their effects on humans—until recently.
Researchers have found that plastic particles accumulate in the human brain and body tissues, leading to health problems such as inflammation, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and necrosis. These issues are linked to various cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and autoimmune conditions.
6 Ways to Avoid Microplastics
As we see with microplastics, small things can accumulate to make a significant impact.
Using these five tips, we can reduce the presence of microplastics in our lives.
- Replace single-use plastics with reusables.
Instead of using single-use, disposable items like plastic grocery bags, disposable cutlery, or bottled water, opt for reusables made of stainless steel or glass.
- Minimize synthetic clothing.
Instead of polyester, nylon, polyamide, or acrylic, choose clothing made from wool, silk, cotton, or hemp.
- Install a fiber-catching filter in your washing machine.
This simple step keeps thousands of microfibers out of the drain every time you do laundry.
- Don’t heat plastic containers.
Never microwave food in plastic or put plastic containers in the dishwasher.
When heated, plastic breaks down quickly and can leach harmful BPA and phthalates.
- Use plastic-free personal care products.
Microbeads, or tiny plastic beads, are found in everything from body scrubs to toothpaste.
Remember to always check labels for polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), or nylon.
6. Install a water filter—Unfortunately, drinking waters these days are among the biggest contributors of plastic ingestion; and if you think that bottled water might be the better option, think again. Water treatment systems can’t filter drinking water that finely (at the nanoparticle level). Microplastics were found in bottled water samples tested, as well as in spring water; and bottled water has shown to have approximately double the amount of micro-plastic compared to tap water. The very best way to avoid plastic in water is to use a filtration system(like a reverse osmosis)for your tap water.
Here are more posts I have written about micro plastics: