Microplastics are possibly the most universal pollutant on the planet. Many are so tiny they can’t be seen without magnification. So what exactly are they, how can they affect you, and how can you protect yourself?
Progress or poison?
Plastics have become a mainstay of modern living. And because plastics are so universal, so are microplastics.
Microplastics are minute pieces of plastic five millimeters in diameter or smaller. The tiniest microplastics, called nano plastics, cannot be seen with the unaided eye.
There are two forms of microplastics, primary and secondary.
- Primary microplastics are intentionally manufactured for products such as scrubbing hand cleaners, exfoliating facial cleansers, industrial cleaning products, paints and cosmetics.
- Secondary microplastics are a byproduct of decaying plastic bottles, bags, and synthetic fabrics in clothing, tires, and other products. This decaying fragmentation into tiny, ragged shreds is the most significant source of microplastic environmental pollution.
How prevalent are microplastics?
Cleaning products using primary microplastics wash down drains and into waterways and sewage systems. Secondary microplastics are broadcast into the air by tire wear from automobiles. Synthetic fibers from clothing drain from washing machines into water systems. The scope of the problem is enormous.
Are microplastics a threat to human health?
Human testing is limited. However, many chemicals used to make plastics, such as Bisphenol-A (BPA), have been related to issues such as chronic inflammation. In addition, nano plastic particles may embed in fatty tissue and in humans’ digestive, respiratory and even reproductive tissue.
What can you do?
You cannot turn the tide of microplastic pollution alone, but you can change your world.
- Start with installing an inexpensive filter on your washing machine to prevent microfibers from draining into the wastewater system into streams, lakes, and oceans.
- Regularly clean, vacuum and dust your home to minimize airborne microplastics brought inside from settling as dust around the house.
- Read labels and buy microplastic-free cosmetics, abrasive cleaners and paints. For example, look for cleaners that use natural grit such as ground almonds or pumice.
- Limit buying single-use plastics such as bottled water and convenience foods. Instead, use BPA-free refillable bottles and filtered water from a home system. Make your own convenience foods and carry them with you in reusable containers.
Related – How to Reduce Plastic Use at Home