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Microplastics Effects on Humans

microplastics human blood

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles less than 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) in diameter that can be found in the environment. Microplastics originate from the degradation or breakdown of larger plastic items due to environmental effects. They are also intentionally manufactured by various industries at small sizes for various purposes such as in cosmetics, textiles, and industrial processes. During processing of plastic products microplastics also released in the environment.

These microplastics are now spread everywhere in the environment, found in oceans, rivers, soil, and even in the air we breathe. These microplastics not only human health but also all living organisms on the earth. Scientists continuously researching on this to know the full extent of their impact on human health.

Types of Microplastics

Microplastics can be classified with the regard to their origin as primary and secondary microplastics. Primary microplastics are manufactured and are a direct result of human material and product use, whereas secondary microplastics are microscopic plastic fragments derived from the breakdown of larger plastic debris.

1. Primary Microplastics

Primary Microplastics are microscopic particles of plastics that are intentionally or purposely manufactured by the industries for uses in their products. They are usually used in facial cleansers and cosmetics, but are also used in air blasting technology. Microplastic particles are used as coarse parts in exfoliating hand cleansers and facial scrubs. A single cleansing product can contain as many as 360,000 microbeads.

Primary microplastics are also used in air blasting technology. This process involves blasting acrylic, melamine or polyester microplastic scrubbers at different surfaces to remove example rust and paint. These scrubbers are used repeatedly until they diminish in size and their cutting power is lost, therefore they often become contaminated with heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium, and lead.

2. Secondary Microplastics

Secondary microplastics are not manufactured by intentionally they are derived by the large plastic item’s breakdowns in small particles or degradation naturally in the environment. It is considered that microplastics might further degrade to be smaller in size, although the smallest microparticle reportedly detected in the oceans at present is 1.6 micrometers in diameter.

what are microplastics

Are microplastics harmful to humans?

In a research, scientists tested 22 anonymous blood samples and found small particles of microplastics in approx. 80% of the people who were tested in the study. Scientists also found that these tiny particles can travel around the body in human blood and may deposit in organs. These Microplastics are mainly PET plastic and polystyrene which mainly come from water bottles and packaging food products.

There are several potential ways in which microplastics could affect humans:

1. Ingestion: Today we eat maximum food items in plastic containers, like water, milk, juices, Coldrinks, packed food items, etc. Non-veg items specially sea foods also contain microplastics in their body. So, these all items accumulate the microplastics in our gastrointestinal tract and causes the ingestion.

2. Respiratory exposure: Fine microplastics have been detected in the air of metro cities or urban areas due to more industrialization or pollution. Inhalation of these fine microplastics could potentially lead to deposition in the respiratory tract and causes the lungs related diseases.

3. Absorption of chemicals: Microplastics actually chemicals that have the ability to adsorb and accumulate other chemicals from the surrounding environment. So, they can absorb organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides. These plastic items can release toxic chemicals in the body when uses these plastic items.

4. Inflammatory responses: Scientists researched on animals and found that exposure of microplastics can lead to inflammation in their guts. So, this may also possible for humans.

5. Disruption of gut microbiota: Human guts have microbiota that play crucial role in the food digestion, microplastics can disturbs these microbiotas and causes the various gastrointestinal disorders and metabolic diseases.

6. Potential for physical damage: Microplastics are hard in nature their shape may be sharp or abrasive so these can damage the tissues of the inside of body.

7. Crossing biological barriers: There are some research’s that suggests microplastics may be cross biological barriers and can go in blood stream that can lead more potential dangers for health.

Environmental Problems

Microplastics in the aquatic environments is today recognized as a serious, emerging global environmental issue. There already exists scientific evidence of sea pollution with microplastics with negative effects for marine animals. Furthermore, they also contaminate the fresh water ecosystems, where they pose danger to animals and plants inhabiting these ecosystems.

Among others, Slovenian researchers demonstrated that microbeads significantly affected the root growth of duckweed (Lemna minor), a freshwater floating plant, by mechanical blocking. Sharp particles of the microplastics also reduced the viability of root cells. They concluded that microbeads from cosmetic products can have significant negative impact on floating plants in freshwater ecosystems.

How to Avoid Microplastics

Many beauty brands have already stopped using microplastics or committed to do so, but until a blanket ban comes into force, we have to check by ourself the industrial products that have polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and nylon in order to avoid microplastics.

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