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[Living Green] Safety Column #1 Microplastics end up coming back to us

by Eco Generation | 29-05-2020 10:11 Comments 5 recommendations 0

Microplastics end up coming back to us


By Science Columnist Ho-Gwan Ko


Take a look around and find things made of plastic. It will be easy. It is rather hard to find things not made of plastic. Plastic is everywhere in our lives.

However, plastic is not biodegradable; if disposed of without care, it will cause environmental pollution by lasting as it is for hundreds of years. According to data released by Professor Roland Geyer at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2017, more than 90 percent of plastics made by humans from 1950 to 2015 have not been recycled and instead have become trash. Plastic not incinerated among them remains somewhere else on Earth.

You may think that plastic is harmless because it does not decompose. However, it is also broken down over time by chemical reactions under external forces or sunlight. Some plastics are made in the form of small particles in the first place. They are used for toothpaste and cosmetics. They flow into rivers and seas. They are microplastics and have recently gained attention as a problem.


Safety Column #1 Microplastics end up coming back to us

▲ Not only is plastic waste indecomposable, but it also breaks down into microplastics, harming the ecosystem.

One of the other things that produces microplastics is laundry. We wear a lot of clothes made of synthetic fibers. In the process of washing them, microfibers, which have the same materials as microplastics, are released. More microplastics are generated when using traditional washers than front-load washers and when washing older clothes than newer ones.

Microplastics can spread around the world by ocean currents. They can also be found in seawater in uninhabited areas. Naturally, they affect marine ecosystems. Plankton eat microplastics, small fish eat plankton, and large fish eat small fish; in this process, the large fish at the top of the food chain will end up having a lot of microplastics. Since microplastics sink to the ocean floor and living creatures in the deep sea are introduced to them.

Diminishing the urge to eat, microplastics make small animals intake less real food. This prevents them from growing properly. Larger animals also suffer from a variety of damage due to the accumulation of microplastics in the body. As small as a nanometer, small plastic particles can penetrate and damage cells or the brain. A study wherein microplastics were fed to fish has revealed that mitochondria in cells were damaged. In addition, the smaller the size, the larger the surface area for volume, so that contaminants in seawater can easily stick to the surface. That is, microplastics can take along other contaminants when entering the body.

The microplastics accumulated in the body of marine animals eventually come back to us on our dinner plates. If you have seafood contaminated with microplastics, you eat them together. Like any other animals, you end up suffering damage, such as cell damage. What is even more frightening is that we do not know exactly how microplastics affect the ecosystem and the human body. For this, more research is needed in the future.

Then how can we reduce microplastics for the ecosystem and our health? It is needless to say we need to decrease the use of plastic. No matter how well you sort waste, recycling is not as easy as you think; it is best to reduce consumption itself. Fortunately, using microplastics for making toothpaste and other items has been banned by law.

We should reuse plastic products as much as possible and avoid disposable products such as plastic bags. It is a good idea to use alternatives like bioplastics. It is also helpful not to wear clothes made of synthetic fibers. Not just consumers but companies and governments also need to make efforts by developing products that do not produce microfibers or washing machines or other filtration technologies that can filter them out. In order to get rid of microplastics that have a negative impact on our health, not just a single individual but everyone should make an effort.


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Kamakshi  Bali

  • Kamakshi Bali says :
    A big hats off for bringing this topic to light!
    Posted 17-07-2020 02:39

Biddhya pandey

  • Biddhya pandey says :
    Thanks tunza for such an informative column series. Hope to learn in future days too
    Posted 07-07-2020 01:57

Heemani Singh

  • Heemani Singh says :
    Thanks for sharing a new colum with interesting topic. Informative report
    Posted 31-05-2020 11:31

Kushal Naharki

  • Kushal Naharki says :
    Thanks for bringing back a new column on an interesting topic. It was so great and got to learn alot from it.
    Posted 29-05-2020 21:51

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