Since the 1950s, up to 8 billion tons of plastic have been produced, of which only 10% has been recycled. Due to the mass consumption, but also the human negligence, we got to introduce into the body, through air, liquids and solid food between 39,000 and 52,000 microplastic particles per year.
Microplastic is any plastic particle smaller than 5 mm, but food, water and air can contain much smaller microplastic particles, invisible to the naked eye, which we consume without realizing it.
Although there is insufficient conclusive evidence regarding the negative effects of microplastics on human body health, scientists agree that the cumulative effect of ingested and inhaled plastic may, over time, have a toxic effect on the body.
Each type of plastic contains certain toxic properties. Some particles have chlorine, others lead, and their accumulation over time can have a strong impact on the immune system.
Moreover, while some microplastic particles have toxic residues in their composition, others can capture and transmit bacteria and various parasites. And microplastic in food and liquids is a component of the problem, because much of the pellet introduced into the body comes through the air we inhale daily (from polluted air, sand, microfiber clothing, such as nylon or polyester).
How does microplastic affect our health?
One of the most intensely studied consequences is the release of harmful synthetic organics by microplastics, such as phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA) and polychlorinated biphenyls (BPC or PBC). Used in the past, especially in the energy industry, the PCB is characterized by a very high persistence in the environment (between 94 days and 2700 years) and was classified, in 2001, in the category of the most dangerous persistent organic pollutants, being banned in production in most European countries and the USA.
Also, these substances have been associated with various conditions, including cancer in animals, and carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic impact in humans, such as immune, nervous, endocrine and reproductive disorders. Both phthalates and BPC are associated with certain hormonal disorders, such as reduced fertility in men and women.
How do we reduce the unconscious consumption of microplastic?
Although we cannot completely avoid the consumption of microplastic particles, we can take a series of measures to reduce the volume that we unconsciously introduce into the body.
One of the most important measures is to avoid heating food in plastic containers. We can use pots, pans, as well as glass containers to avoid ingestion of microplastic particles and synthetic organics released from the heated plastic.
It is also advisable to wash the plastic containers separately, without putting them in the dishwashers, next to the glass, metal and porcelain ones.
Another aspect to consider is the careful choice of plastic containers that we use in the kitchen. Thus, we must pay attention to the recycling code of plastic vessels. The codes that include figures 3, 6 and 7 indicate the presence of phthalates and PCBs, and this type of containers are to be avoided.
A healthy option from many points of view is to choose fresh, unprocessed foods. Although there are not enough studies to attest to the reduced presence of microplastics in fresh foods, most of them are not packed in hard plastic containers, compared to processed and semi-prepared foods. Also, the consumption of liquids from glass containers instead of plastic helps us to reduce the amount of microplastic ingested.
Last but not least, maintaining cleanliness can help us reduce the inhaled microplastic particles in the air. Synthetic fabrics and even the dust particles inside are carrying microplastics, therefore the suction and the recurring dust removal protects us from both mites and microplastic particles.