Microplastics Are Everywhere: Is There a Way to Avoid Ingesting Them?
You’ve probably seen it on the news: our lives have become plasticised. Plastic pollution is affecting everything around us, from the oceans and forests to our water supplies. Microplastics, in particular, are in the plates we eat from, the chairs we sit on, in the clothes we wear, and in the vehicles we drive, among thousands of other examples. But now we’ve reached a worrying point, with researchers discovering that there's sometimes a very high amount of microplastics in the food we eat and the water we drink!
And while they are not still sure of what type of consequences these microplastics bring about in our bodies, research carried out in animals suggests they are unhealthy for us. To avoid the harmful effect microplastics can have on us human beings, we should start making a change in our routines and replacing plastic products with more sustainable options.
The first step towards making a change is understanding exactly what microplastics are, what they are doing to our environment and our bodies, and why we should be worried about this issue. Keep on reading and discover some simple measures you can take to keep microplastics at bay and away from your body!
#1 - What Exactly Are Microplastics?
Microplastics are very small particles of plastic that come from a variety of sources. Only a few of them are made to serve a purpose (such as the ones used in exfoliant creams or toothpaste), while the rest of the microplastics found in the environment come from larger items. Experts estimate that almost 75% of microplastics originate from the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic (1), such as plastic bags, bottles, food containers, synthetic clothing, and so on. Even that cozy scarf you might be wearing right now can shred off microplastics!
#2 - How Are Microplastics Made?
Most microplastics are usually not purposefully made but they are usually debris from larger plastics that degrade into very small pieces with time and use (2). For instance, microplastics can shear off from synthetic clothes or car tyres.
However, other types of microplastics have been manufactured for commercial purposes. Some examples include:
- Nurdles, which are then melted and moulded to manufacture other plastic items and containers.
- Microbeads, very small pieces of polyethylene used in the cosmetic industry. They are added to body creams and other beauty products to make exfoliants.
#3 - Where Can We Find Microplastics?
Unfortunately, microplastics seem to be everywhere, from the deep oceans to the Arctic. By 2015, oceanographers believed there were more than 50 trillion microplastics floating in the oceans. Today, there are probably many more.
Many researchers have also found microplastics in our table salt, beer, and drinking water. Most wastewater treatment plants can remove up to 98% of the microplastics floating in it, but several studies have shown that they still release a staggering 4 million particles per day (3).
#4 - Do Microplastics Affect Humans?
Research has not been conclusive regarding whether microplastics are dangerous for human health or not, especially because microplastics come in a great variety of shapes, sizes, and compositions. People breathe in dust and sand all the time and we are not particularly affected by this.
However, most specialists agree that there’s a high risk that microplastics are harmful to our health for the following reasons (4). First, plastic does not occur in nature, so it probably has different effects on our health than sand may have. Second, research has been carried out on animals, like fish, that shows that these particles can act as vectors for contaminants. Finally, the plastic itself can carry contaminants like trace metals and other toxic pollutants that can cause disease in humans.
Certainly, more research is needed to understand the effects of microplastics in human beings, but one thing is certain: steering clear of plastic can improve your quality of life and health!
#5 - How to Reduce the Intake of Microplastics?
Many companies are moving towards sustainability, reducing their production of plastics and using recyclable materials to produce clothing, for example. While this is certainly a move in the right direction, there’s still a long way to go to truly reduce the number of microplastics in our environment.
The good news is that you can have a positive impact on the planet and reduce your plastic intake by making smart lifestyle choices. Taking your reusable bag to the supermarket instead of using plastic ones is the first step, but there are many more things you can do to reduce pollution and to control the number of microplastics you introduce to your body. Here are some ideas!
Use Water Filters
Water treatment typically reduces the amount of plastic found in tap water, but it doesn’t eliminate it completely. Several studies show that almost 94% of tap water in the USA contains some kind of microplastic (5)! Is there anything you can do to avoid them? Sure thing! A water filter can be your ally when reducing your intake of these substances.
The most effective type of water filter when removing microplastics is the reverse osmosis one. It uses a special mechanism that pushes water through a membrane that filters microplastics, among other impurities. Reverse osmosis water filters can be costly, but consider it an investment in your health!
Stop Using Tea Bags
Did you know that those tea bags you regularly consume contain up to 25% plastic? When exposed to heat, these bags release billions of microplastic particles into your tea (6)! So, whenever you make yourself a delicious cup of any type of tea, you’re not only drinking this infusion but you’re also introducing (too many) microplastics into your body.
The good news is that you don’t have to wait until manufacturers decide to get rid of the plastics in the tea bags they produce. You can choose loose leaf tea that comes in eco-friendly packaging and it’s much more flavourful!
Avoid Plastic Containers
Some chemicals contained in the plastic containers themselves can be concerning. For instance, phthalates (used to make the plastic more flexible), seem to produce reproductive dysfunction in animals, decreasing their fertility (7). Some other studies have even linked these substances with a higher risk of suffering from asthma (8). And these chemicals can leach out of the plastic of the container into the food we eat and the water we drink, especially if you expose it to heat as in the microwave.
Eliminate plastic bowls, wraps, and bottles and replace them for more healthy, sustainable items made of glass or stainless steel. They are affordable, beautiful, and will last forever while reducing your plastic intake.
Buy Clothes Made From Natural Materials
Clothes made of synthetic fibres seem to significantly contribute to pollution, so if you’d like to reduce your consumption, you should opt for clothes made of natural fibres like cotton or wool. But if that’s impossible for you, you can at least try and keep microplastics away from wastewater when you wash them by using washing bags like Guppyfriend. They reduce fibre sheds from going down the drain while protecting your clothes inside the washing machine.
Stop Using Single-Use Plastics
Single-use plastics are items that are thrown into the garbage as soon as they have served their purpose, such as plastic forks and knives, straws, or styrofoam containers. Many countries have already forbidden them, forcing business owners to look for more sustainable options, but in many places of the world, you can still buy them for personal or commercial use. In addition to taking 450 or more years to decompose, these items usually shed millions of microplastics into the environment and even your food.
Reduce your intake of these particles by replacing plastic with other materials and invest in products that can be used for months or even years. Plastic straws can be easily replaced by paper ones (or even nothing, most of the time). The same happens with coffee cups (bring your own mug next time you buy coffee at a shop!). There’s even edible cutlery available in the market so you don’t have to use plastic forks or knives ever again! Yummy!
Air Dry Instead of Using a Machine
Your laundry also sheds harmful microplastics into the environment. Using a dryer can produce dramatic fibre shedding when drying clothes made of synthetic fibres, releasing up to 700,000 microplastics into the environment each time you use your machine. Shocking, right?
Luckily, you can reduce this pollution by air drying your clothes instead of using the machine. If you’re worried they will take too long to dry, you can always place your clothes near a fan or a vent to accelerate the process. Make sure you keep them separate to allow for air circulation and faster drying!
Reduce Your Meat and Fish Consumption
Today, we are eating microplastics in ways we don’t even imagine. Fish may be delicious and highly nutritious, but they are likely to be contaminated with microplastics one way or another. With these particles filling our oceans, it was only a matter of time before microplastics entered fish and shellfish and, of course, the human body.
But there are many other sources that don’t come from the sea and also contain traces of microplastics. For instance, a study carried out in 2017 (9) discovered that chickens raised on a farm in Mexico also contained microplastics. So, what can you do if you wish to reduce your exposure to these particles? Start by limiting your intake of meat and fish and replace them with other nutritious foods. Some good protein-rich alternatives include soya beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, and jackfruit. You can always consult with a health professional to make sure you are not missing out on any essential vitamins or minerals if you plan to replace meat with other vegetarian alternatives.
The issue of microplastic pollution can certainly feel overwhelming. These particles are in our food, our clothes, even in the water we drink every day, so you may think there’s no way to escape them. Luckily, this is not entirely true. There are some simple measures you can take to reduce your exposure to microplastics while helping the environment by reducing pollution. Any effort you make to lessen your plastic consumption, such as doing away with one-use plastics or replacing synthetic clothes for more sustainable ones can make a difference.
If you’re worried about the number of synthetic particles you ingest every day, buying a good water filter and reducing the fish and meat you eat are the first steps towards a life with fewer microplastics in it. And if you’d like a little help to cleanse your body and flush toxins away, you can try our Complete Gut Detox system. This is an easy-to-take health supplement made of 100% natural ingredients that will sweep away impurities that may sit in your gut, such as plastics. You can also take our FREE Comprehensive Health Assessment to get tailor-made recommendations of other products you can use to regain your health and well-being!