How Plastic has Made its Way Into our Diets

Microplastics have been documented to be found from the Great Lakes in America to the coasts of Africa and onward to Russia

In today’s world, the human population is projected to reach 8 billion by the year 2023. As the human population increases, consumption and waste production will naturally increase as well. Over the decades we have seen our fair share of environmental changes. One of those environmental issues would be micro plastics in the water. What are microplastics? micro-plastics? By definition resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste. That is pretty much what it is, our over use of plastic items like utensils for eating or microbeads that were in many hand soaps.

Plastic desecrates our beaches.

Microplastics are what’s taking the blame on the surface level of what mostly polluting the oceans, what tops that are the microfiber pollutants. In comparison to the microplastics, microfibers are defined as a staple fiber or filaments of linear density. These tiny fibers have recently been proven to be the larger portion of the microplastic pollution. Just like the pieces of plastic, float effortlessly through out the oceans and these bodies of freshwater that’s inhabited by microorganisms. The pollutants are currently being ingested by plankton and other small organisms.

Microplastics

Plankton and sea anemone have been ingesting microplastics for quite some time now. There was a study done on plankton that showed them ingesting luminescent polystyrene beads. What this means is that starting at the bottom of the food chain, practice is introduced to the diet of animals. This only continues up the food chain, and there are numerous sea animals that are eaten on a daily basis. Fish for example, in a study done by Science Direct titled Microplastics in Wild Fishfrom the North East Atlantic Ocean. From the 150 analyzed fish (50 per species), 49 % had MP. In fish from the 3 species, MP in the gastrointestinal tract, gills and dorsal muscle were found. Fish with MP had significantly (p ≤ 0.05) higher lipid peroxidation levels in the brain, gills and dorsal muscle, and increased brain acetylcholinesterase activity than fish where no MP were found. These results suggest lipid oxidative damage in gills and muscle, and neurotoxicity “ this same study also goes into how much we as humans consume microplastics based off of fish intake.”

On a global scale, there were initial estimations that there is anywhere from 15 to trillion individual pieces in the ocean. That’s anywhere between 93,000 to 236,000 metric tons deposited in to the waters through various ways. Synthetic tires eroding, factories producing clothes with nylon or even the production of fleec jackets. Recent years there have been a number of rules, mandates and laws introduced in various countries to combat this issue. The larger portion comes from us washing our clothes and the fibers shedding off with each wash. There is still the issue of washing machines not having filters that pull the fibers after the rinse. There is are multiple studies that a single article of clothing can release hundreds of thousands of microfibers, now imagine an entire load. There is a study quantifying microfiber loss, which only add a deeper insight to just how much has been released and for how long.

Currently there are multiple efforts to clear up our oceans from what’s been put into them for so many decade. One of the bigger efforts taking place is The Ocean Cleanup. The Ocean Clean up is an idea set in motion by Boyan Slat to clear the oceans of 90% of the plastics. The Ocean Cleanup was recently awarded a million dollars to clear up the most polluted waterway in Jamaica. There are also companies that have tried to tackle the issue inside the home with washing machine filters. Cora Ball is a company that understands the amount of microfibers we expend every time we wash our clothes. Their design is based on the idea of corals and how their job is to filter the oceans. Companies have also aimed to tackle removing them from everyday drinking water like in home filtration systems. Tapp Water, a water filtration company has designed a system to remove 100% of microplastics from you drinking water with their state of the art carbon-block systems.

The Ocean Cleanup

There’s a lot of change that still needs to be made, but there are groups trying to take the necessary steps, following their call to action making our environments better globally. With awareness and concerns continually growing, its only going to push us as a species to better protect our own habitats.

There is a ton more information out that that goes well beyond what I have, but I hope this was informative.

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