Why in the discussion?
According to a study conducted by a group of researchers in the Netherlands, tiny particles of plastic called ‘microplastics’ have been detected in human blood for the first time.
The researchers adapted existing techniques to detect and analyze particles as small as 700 nanometers in size.
They targeted five common plastic categories, including polythene terephthalate (PET) and polythene.
What are microplastics?
These plastic particles less than five millimeters in diameter are often smaller than the classic pearls used in jewelry. These can be harmful to our sea and aquatic life.
There are two categories of microplastics: primary and secondary.
Primary Microplastics: Small particles designed for commercial use and use in microfiber clothing and other fabrics.
For example, microbeads are found in personal care products, plastic pellets, and plastic fibers.
Secondary Microplastics: These are formed by the breakdown of larger plastics such as water bottles. This breakdown occurs due to exposure to environmental factors, mainly the sun’s radiation and ocean waves.
Scientists analyzed blood samples from 22 donors and found plastic particles in 17 samples. More than half of the samples contained PET plastic, commonly used in drinking water bottles. One-third contained polystyrene, which is used for packaging food and other products. One-quarter of blood samples contained polythene, which is used to make plastic carrier bags. This is the first indication of its kind that polymeric particles are present in our blood. Prior studies suggest that there were 10 times more microplastics in the feces of infants than in adults and that children are swallowing millions of microplastic particles a day using plastic bottles. These particles are spread throughout the body and can be present in different parts of the body for a long time.
There is still not enough information available about their effects on health.
The study results support the hypothesis that human exposure to these plastic particles results in the absorption of the particles into the bloodstream, but further studies are needed to assess the risky effects.
Concerns related to microplastics:
Microplastics can stick to the outer membranes of red blood cells and limit their ability to transport oxygen. While these particles have also been found in the placentas of pregnant women, microplastics in mice spread rapidly from the lungs of the fetus to the heart, brain and other organs. Microplastics damage human cells and cause the premature death of millions of people a year. Children in general are more vulnerable to these particles.
Combination of degradation mechanism: A combination of photodegradation and biological degradation system has been suggested for effective and complete decomposition of microplastics.
International cooperation: It calls for a new global treaty based on the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Agreement for the disposal of plastic waste around the world.
The solution to the global plastic problem is only when countries decide to monitor microplastics on their shores and enforce orders to use only biodegradable plastics.
Reducing the consumption of plastic: The consumption of plastic can be reduced by the government to ensure a reduction in the level of microplastic pollution.
Government, industry and civil society must work together to reduce the amount of litter on beaches and oceans.
Initiatives at the individual level: Individual initiatives such as using zero-waste, disposable and own utensils, and not using bottled water and plastic packaging are some of the steps that every citizen can take to prevent microplastic pollution.
Subsidy for recycling projects: Financial support including tax exemptions, research and development funds, technology incubation, public-private partnerships, and support for recycling single-use goods and waste-to-process projects.