Updated: Jan 7, 2021
Microplastic particles (MPPs) are becoming a global problem, as they are incorporated into products almost daily. The tiny particles are able to define plastic waste less than five millimeters long, and have a number of properties that are not yet fully understood. It turns out that they are all collectively referred to as microplastics and that there are other teams actively pursuing this area of research. Dr Je-Jie Chen, from Oxford University's Department of Chemistry, said: "Although our research points to the potential to remove these microplastics from our environment and water supply, this remains a key challenge for the future.
Individuals can take action to limit their exposure to plastic, "Myers said," but a large-scale solution requires a reduction in the overall amount of plastic used. It is also important to consider the impact that removing different types of plastic would have. On an individual level, there is a lot to consider, from the clothes you buy to products you don't even know they contain plastic, to the way you wash. Here's what you need to know about the tiny plastic particles in food and water and what you should do to avoid them.
"There is a lot to consider, from the clothes you buy to products you don't even know they contain plastic, to the way you wash."
Problems With Micro plastics
Microplastics, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are made from detergents of synthetic clothing and from plastic pellets used by manufacturers. A secondary microplastic is a fragmented plastic particle that is formed by weathering, such as rain, wind, sun or other environmental conditions.
The problem is that plastic and the chemical contaminants that go with it could accumulate in the bodies of large fish. The plastic is basically floating, and very little is known about where these microplastic particles end up in the environment, except that they eventually sink to the sea floor. For this reason, we do not know where they end or how long they last.
People could also consume plastic particles from sewage that are deliberately added to cosmetics and paints by farms. Knowing which types of plastic are most abundant in the sea could help prevent pollution from happening in the first place.
Microbeads, for example, are tiny plastic balls that manufacturers add to body washes, toothpastes and other products to give them extra abrasion. Microplastics, known as primary microplastics, are micro in design, but not micro-small. Examples of primary microplastics are microbes found in personal care products, plastic fibres used in synthetic textiles (e.g. nylon) and plastic pellets (nurdles) used in industrial manufacturing.
Although the number of particles does not appear to be particularly threatening, this figure is only a fraction of the amount of microplastics that enter the aquatic environment, given the enormous amount of water that these plants treat and drain daily. According to the National Ocean Service, there are plastic particles that are 0.5 mm in diameter and 1 mm in size. Although most of these plastics are microscopic in size and cannot be seen with the naked eye, they can be defined as tiny pieces of plastic under 5 mm, and there is no evidence that they are harmful to human health or the environment in any form, shape or form.
It is likely that the amount of plastic waste in the oceans will continue to increase, mainly due to the unstoppable increase in plastic consumption. Many consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of single-use plastic and are calling for a reduction.
As plastics have become more widespread in modern society, so has plastic pollution, including tiny plastic particles. Previous studies have shown that microplastic pollution affects what people eat, breathe and rain down on city dwellers.
Scientists are only beginning to understand where the plastic might be in the ocean, not to mention its impact on the environment. Tests are being carried out to determine exactly how microplastics affect our environment, with the main concerns being the health of the animals that consume the particles that contaminate the living beings that eat them. It has been suggested that the majority of plastics in our oceans are likely microplastics floating in water or buried in sediment.
The World Health Organisation has called for more research and a crackdown on plastic pollution, saying that microplastics in drinking water do not pose a problem for human health based on the limited information available. A recent study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that the effects have not yet been proven without evidence of adverse effects on human or animal health.
It is estimated that for every microscope contained in a bath gel, 100,000 pellets end up in the drain and in the sea, where they are consumed by marine fauna, potentially introducing toxic substances into the food chain. Currently, a huge amount of plastic floats on the surface of the Mediterranean and accumulates in rivers, lakes, streams, rivers and other waters around the world. This colossal, invisible reservoir of plastic waste poses a major threat to human health and the environment. The data collected, representing 75,000 plastic particles, is the largest collection of microplastics ever collected in the Mediterranean and the second largest in Europe.