Microplastics have become one of the greatest threats to the entire planet. Their presence has been identified from arctic snow to alpine soil in the deepest trenches of oceans. Scientists are yet to find out the impacts of microplastics in the human body but have recognized their intake by people both directly and indirectly through the food they have, the water they drink and the air they breathe.
Instead of biodegradation, plastic undergoes physical breakdown resulting in the formation of particles smaller than 5mm in size known as microplastics and particles having a diameter less than 0.001mm known as nanoplastics. Microplastics are usually discarded while washing synthetic clothes, vehicle tyres and emissions of plastic pellets from industries.
The existence of microplastics in the marine sediments and bottom-living creatures of the sea is a serious indication of the potential environmental hazards due to pollution. Once ingested by small creatures, the microplastics move through the food chain affecting the entire biodiversity and the exposure of wildlife to tiny particles of plastics can lead to infertility, inflammation, cancer etc. Studies on marine animals have reported an increasingly alarming rate of microplastics in every one of 50 marine mammals washed up on the shores. They have also been found in insects and birds. Apart from the identified health impacts on animals and marine life, very little is known about its health effects on humans.
The omnipresence of plastic in our environment is equally treacherous to humans even though its consequences are yet to be identified. Analysis of bottled drinking water across the globe conducted by WHO in 2018 has detected the potential risks of microplastic in 90% of the world’s most popular bottled water brands.
The studies conducted by WWF in 2019 shows that the average human eats around 2000 microplastics weakly and 90% of rainwater samples collected from various regions contain a considerable amount of microplastic in it.
Reports on recent research conducted on deceased human organs have discovered the traces of numerous types of plastic in almost all major organs including kidney, lungs, liver etc and it also suggests that microplastics can persist in the human body. These harmful chemicals in plastic materials can cause adverse health imbalances including cancer, birth defects, developmental and reproductive issues, endocrine disruption, and compromised immunity.
The most shocking fact is that the microplastics have made their way into the human body, even in the placenta of several unborn children. Long term health hazards caused by extremely small particles of plastic in the placenta of the babies and their mothers is a serious concern. These particles are likely to have been consumed or breathed in by mothers that could carry chemicals that may upset the foetus’s developing immune system.
The inventions humans have made through the overexploitation of nature without taking the harmful effects into consideration now seems to bite back at them one by one as the maker of plastic seems to be made of plastic. It’s high time for us to respect nature and live within its bounds.