If you ask me, it was only a matter of time that some studies revealed the gruesome evidence on the impact on the human body of our evergrowing global plastic pollution.
Air pollution? Yeah – the air we breath is certainly of concern. We can directly relate to that; I mean – we all breath, don’t we?
Soil pollution? Yeah – contaminated soil means increased risk of ground water pollution and consumption of poisoned vegetables and fruits grown on contaminated ground. We can relate to that too because we all eat and drink.
But – plastic pollution in lakes, rivers, and the sea? That’s certainly affecting the flora an fauna, but not us, right?!
The results of the most recent research from the Medical University of Vienna hit the public news this week and as such finally trickle into our awareness. Apart from polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) 7 other types of plastic were found in the human stool samples from participants from Britain, Austria, Finland, Poland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Russia.
What we know -or don’t know- so far…
Microplastic transport pathways, the factors that affect their presence and distribution in our environment, and their affect on human health are still not fully understood. This is concerning because we, as human population, have a high dependency on freshwaters for drinking water and for food resources.
Although more work is needed to establish the full environmental relevance of microplastics in the transport of contaminants to organisms living in the natural environment, and the extent to which these contaminants could then be transported along food chain, we already know that Phthalates and BPA can bioaccumulate in organisms; especially high concentrations were found in in some species of molluscs and crustaceans. Phtalates and BPA are known to potentially interfer with hormone function, can affect reproduction, or impair development. Some medical studies revealed a significant relationship between urine levels of BPA and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and abnormalities in liver enzymes.
The physical problems associated with plastic debris, if ingested, seem quite obvious, but what the potential to transfer toxic substances to the food chain is yet to be examined. Plastics can accumulate and concentrate persistent organic pollutants, and these can be more concentrated on the surface of plastic debris.
The smaller the microplastic particle – the greater the risk potential. Truly microscopic fragments, such as particles less than the 333 µm, have a relatively large surface area to volume ratio, which is likely to facilitate the transport of contaminants. The accumulation of these microparticles in our food chain should therefore be an emerging area of concern.
What does the future hold?
There is a growing body of literature on potential health risks to human health as a wide range of chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process of plastics are known to be toxic.
One of the goals in the new field of “green chemistry” is to develope strategies to reduce the use of these harmful chemicals in plastic manufacturing, involving both biologists and chemists – but until independent scientists work more closely with, rather than against, each other, we’ll all need to step up and do our bit.
Despite greater awareness among the general public about the problems of littering, the propensity to litter had actually increased.
This indicates that further education and engagement strategies are urgently needed.
What can I do?
- Share this article with people you love and genuinely care for – start the conversation and do more research
- Avoid on-the-go/fast food whenever possible as it’s directly linked to single-use plastic consumtpion. Benefit: is safes a lot of money too!
- If you cannot resist temptation > Use your own reusable coffee cup or tumbler, food container and bamboo, wooden, or stainless steel cuttlery and straw. Benefit: You’re always prepared, for each occasion!
- Always carry your own refillable water bottle. Benefit: There are many public water fountains where you can refill for free!
- Search for loose fruit and veg when doing your groceries and always carry your own canvas (or alike) shopping bag with you. They take up no room and weigh next to nothing, so don’t worry about carrying extra bulk. Benefit: You’re not carrying any excess plastic containers, wraps, and bags home that you’ll need to bin > less trips to bring the rubbish out!
- Shop seasonal and local and upport your small grocery shop or , rather than a commercial chain. Benefit: You’re supporting your comunity!
- When you order a soft-drink or smoothie, add the magic sentence “no straw please” directly to your order. It takes practice but works wonders! You carry your own straw(s) now so don’t need theirs – and if you’ve forgotten: go old-school – do sips using your lips! Benefits: Mini facial Yoga: You’ll tone your neck muscles and prevent sagging, double chins.
There is many more examples I could give but I like the number seven, so let’s pause here for the moment. I am keen as well to learn about tips and recommendations you have to curb the plastic trend.
Please share in the comments below!