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The New Delicacy: Microplastics!

With the growing human population, the growth of plastic usage has also increased. And why would it not? It is cheaper than any other alternative available, not just to produce but also to consume. In fact, the first synthetic plastic was made to combat the rising extinction of elephants and turtles whose ivory and shells were being used for everything from billiard balls (ivory) to combs (shells). The first fully synthetic plastic was made by Leo Baekeland in 1907. This curbed the problem of animal extinction and made items easily accessible. So when exactly did plastic invade our earth to the point that they had made their way inside our bodies?


I’m Wajeeha, and learning about the effects of different substances on the human body is one of my favourite things to do. Today I want to delve into microplastics making a home in our bodies.





Something that was once supposed to be a saving grace has now become one of the biggest challenges facing humanity today. Plastics have managed to make their way into the basic constituents humans need to consume to survive, even water. But how did the microplastics end up there?


From Environment To Food To Humans

Microplastics in human diets are not a solitary issue but rather connected to plastic pollution as a whole. Seafood is a delicacy enjoyed all over the world. Waste dumped into the oceans is consumed by marine life, which in turn is eaten by humans. The plastic in them is transported to us. Similarly, microplastics are burrowed in the soil in which plants are grown. Humans either directly consume the plant or they consume the animals that eat the plant. One way or another, microplastics enter our bodies.

W. (2019, November 7). Micro Plastics, or Major Problem? The Tiny Killers of Fish With The Potential to Result in Unforeseen Ecological Consequences | Fish Tales for Ohio. Retrieved from https://u.osu.edu/enrfishtax/2019/11/07/micro-plastics-or-major-problem-the-tiny-killers-of-fish-with-the-potential-to-result-in-unforeseen-ecological-consequences/

According to a study by researchers at Cardiff University, the European farmlands could be the biggest global reservoir of microplastics. “Between 31,000 and 42,000 tonnes of microplastics, or 86 trillion to 710 trillion microplastic particles, contaminate European farmland each year.” Let that number sink in for a minute.


Inside the Body

The chemicals in microplastics have been known to disturb the endocrine system in our bodies and interfere with the hormones in our bodies. Research has shown that long-term disturbances can lead to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Our immune system is also severely affected. Most of our immune cells are in the gut, and any condition affecting the gut affects them too. Long-term exposure to microplastics disrupts the gut microbiota and leads to the growth of “bad bacteria”. This isn’t even mentioning the harmful chemicals that the microplastics may carry, which will further compromise the immune system.

Chemicals in these plastics are associated with many more health complications, like cancer, poor foetal development, allergic reactions, and even cell breakdown.


Are we consuming microplastics through take-out food? (2022, September 26). Retrieved from https://www.news-medical.net/news/20220926/Are-we-consuming-microplastics-through-take-out-food.aspx


What can be done?

It is not entirely hopeless, though! There are a number of ways in which we can limit our microplastic intake. By using eco-friendly materials in all walks of life, minimising our intake of processed foods, and using glass and stainless steel crockery and bottles, we also need to opt for natural materials in our clothes instead of synthetic ones.

Most importantly, we must do our best to spread awareness about this issue as best as we can as individuals and advocate for better replacements for plastic.









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