Did you know that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated that approximately 8 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year. The amount of plastic in the ocean is expected to double in the next 15 years, and by 2050, it could outweigh all the fish in the sea by weight.

And it gets worse- The fossil fuel industry plans to increase plastic production by 40% over the next decade, which will lead to more plastic ending up in the oceans. This increase in plastic production is driven by the low cost of shale gas, which is used to produce ethane, a key component in plastic manufacturing.

Microplastics and Their Effects

Microplastics come from various sources including larger plastic debris that breaks down into smaller pieces, resin pellets used in plastic manufacturing, and microbeads found in cosmetics and personal care products. These microplastics form as plastic breaks down into small particles that can be ingested by fish and other marine life. Not only do they pose a threat to the health of fish but potentially affects the food chain.

Microplastics can have significant impacts on marine life. Fish, shellfish, and other marine animals can ingest them, causing physical harm and even death. Microplastics can also absorb and concentrate toxic chemicals, making them even more harmful to marine life.

Research has shown that microplastics can also affect  reproductive health… leading to population declines. For example, a study found that 26% of fish species globally ingest microplastics, which can impact their ability to survive and reproduce.

While research on their health effects is still in its early stages, emerging evidence suggests that microplastics may pose several health risks to humans

Firstly, while the direct impacts of microplastics on human health are still being investigated, diet and fitness may have a role. Microplastics can be ingested through contaminated food and water, inhaled by breathing in airborne microplastics or absorbed through the skin.

 6 Potential Health Effects to the Ingestion of Microplastics

Digestive system:

  • Disruption of the gut microbiome
  • Inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract

Respiratory system:

  • Oxidative stress in airways and lungs
  • Reduced formation and size of airways in lung tissue models

Endocrine system:

  • Possible endocrine disruption due to chemicals like BPA in plastics

Reproductive system:

  • Lower sperm quality and testosterone levels (observed in animal studies)

Immune system:

  • Triggering of immune responses and inflammation

Neurological effects:

  • Potential impacts on learning and memory (observed in animal studies)

Other potential risks:

  • Oxidative stress and DNA damage
  • Possible links to cancer, heart disease, and kidney disease
  • Potential factor in Alzheimer’s disease and fertility issues

It’s important to note that many of these effects have been primarily observed in laboratory studies on cells or animals, and their direct relevance to human health is still being investigated as to the complexity of microplastics, including their diverse sizes, shapes, and chemical compositions that makes it challenging to establish clear causal relationships with specific health outcomes. Researchers are working to better understand:

  • How microplastics accumulate and move within the human body
  • The long-term effects of chronic exposure
  • The potential synergistic effects with other environmental pollutants

While the full extent of health risks remains unclear, the ubiquitous presence of microplastics in the environment and their detection in human tissues have raised significant health concerns. Ongoing research aims to provide more conclusive evidence about the health impacts of microplastics, which could inform future public health policies and plastic management strategies.

Human Exposure To Microplastics is Extensive

If you think that the average person’s exposure to microplastics is negligible, then consider this!

Many everyday food products have been found to contain microplastics, often due to environmental contamination or food processing and packaging. Here are some common items that likely contain microplastics:

Many everyday food products have been found to contain microplastics, often due to environmental contamination or food processing and packaging. Here are some common items that likely contain microplastics:

  1. Drinking water

Bottled water has been shown to contain high levels of microplastics.

Tap water also contains microplastics, though generally at lower levels than bottled water.

  1. Seafood:

Fish and shellfish are significant sources of dietary microplastics due to ocean pollution.

An average person may consume about 53,864 microplastic particles annually from seafood.

  1. Fruits and vegetables:

Plants can absorb microplastics through their roots.

Apples and carrots are among the most contaminated, with over 100,000 microplastics per gram.

  1. Salt:

Most table salt brands contain microplastics.

An average adult may consume around 2,000 microplastic particles per year from salt alone.

  1. Beer:

Contains about 28 microplastic particles per liter, more than soda or energy drinks.

  1. Tea:

Plastic tea bags can release billions of micro- and nanoplastic particles into a single cup.

  1. Processed foods:

Highly processed products like chicken nuggets, plant-based burgers, and tofu tend to have higher levels of microplastics.

  1. Packaged foods:

Foods stored in plastic packaging are likely to contain microplastics.

  1. Rice and honey:

Many healthy lifestyle blogs encourage people to eat fresh, unprocessed foods as part of their healthy diet. But did you know? These everyday items have also been shown to contain microplastics.

Insiders health Tip:

To reduce microplastic intake, experts recommend:

  • Choosing healthy foods to eat, such as fresh, unprocessed foods, when possible
  • Avoiding plastic packaging where feasible
  • Using glass or stainless steel containers
  • Filtering drinking water
  • Use loose-leaf tea instead of bagged tea

While it’s challenging to completely avoid microplastics in food, being aware of their sources and making informed choices can help reduce exposure.

 

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10151227/

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/envhealth.3c00052

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-024-02968-x

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/microplastics-food

https://edition.cnn.com/2024/04/22/health/plastics-food-wellness-scn/index.html

https://edition.cnn.com/2024/04/22/health/plastics-food-wellness-scn/index.html

https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news/2024/03/new-study-links-microplastics-serious-health-harms-humans

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20230103-how-plastic-is-getting-into-our-food

You Are What You Eat: Plastics In Our Food

New study finds microplastics in several protein foods

 

 

 

Microplastics are in our bodies. Here’s why we don’t know the health risks

Recommended Blogs

Western Diet

Sugar is often seen as a harmless treat for children, a reward for good behavior, or a staple in their daily diet. However, the dangers of excessive sugar consumption extend far beyond tooth decay and temporary hyperactivity…from impairing cognitive function to contributing to obesity and chronic diseases, the impact of sugar on children’s health is […]

Did you know that according to the American Heart Association the average American consumes approximately 60 pounds of added sugar annually. This equates to about 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which is 2 to 3 times the recommended amount for men and women respectively. To make the matters worse, the Department of Agriculture […]

Xenoestrogens

Many everyday food products have been found to contain microplastics, often due to environmental contamination or food processing and packaging. Here are some common items that likely contain microplastics: Drinking water: Bottled water has been shown to contain high levels of microplastics. Tap water also contains microplastics, though generally at lower levels than bottled water. […]

Related Blogs

Did you know that today’s grocery store food would be completely unfamiliar to shoppers from the 1930s? Due to  significant technological and cultural changes plus the rise of packaged food companies, many health professionals believe we are poisoning ourselves as we watch cancer rates, diabetes rate and heart disease rise exponentially. Here are some insights […]

Based on the search results provided, there is evidence to suggest that Coca-Cola and other soda companies have engaged in practices that could be seen as attempting to influence health organizations and potentially keep them silent on certain issues related to diet and fitness. Here’s a summary of the key points: Extensive sponsorships: Coca-Cola and PepsiCo […]

Ozempic, Mounjaro and WeGovy are groundbreaking medications for managing type 2 diabetes that have generated significant excitement in the medical community and those who want to lose weight through diet and fitness. Healthcare professionals and researchers have praised it for its effectiveness in controlling blood sugar levels and aiding in weight loss. However, like any medication, […]