Microplastics, pollution, safety, and more

Small pieces of plastic called microplastics can travel through wastewater into the ocean, where animals may consume them. Over time, this can cause microplastics to accumulate in animals who eventually become food for humans.

According to Plastic Oceans, more than 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans each year.

A 2020 study of microplastics in five different types of seafood found plastic in every sample the researchers tested, suggesting that microplastics do find their way into our food products. This may affect human health.

Keep reading to learn more about plastics in seafood, including the associated health risks and more about the dangers of ocean pollution.

Larger pieces of plastic present a number of health risks for sea life, as plants and animals can become entangled in them. However, in recent years, researchers have also turned their attention toward microplastics.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic less than 5 millimeters long. Their small size means that they can travel easily throughout the ocean. Animals may mistake them for food or accidentally consume them when eating other food.

Larger pieces of plastic can become microplastics as they break down over time and move around the ocean.

Some manufacturers may also use microplastics in their products. For example, cosmetic companies first began using tiny pieces of plastic in beauty products about 5 decades ago.

These small pieces of plastic are common in some exfoliating products and toothpastes because they are a cheaper alternative to nonplastic ingredients.

Consumers can check their beauty products by looking for microbeads on the label, or by using the Beat the Microbead app. It is worth noting that the United States banned the use of microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products in 2015.

Microplastics are highly prevalent in seafood due to the vast quantity of them in the ocean.

Research consistently finds microplastics in a wide variety of animals, in both oceans and rivers that feed into the oceans. For example, one 2020 study of two fish species in a river found that 100% of these fish had microplastics in their bodies.

Plastics, and especially microplastics, can travel up the food chain. The closer to the top of the food chain an animal is, the more likely it is to eat lots of microplastics.

This occurs because smaller animals eat plastics, then larger animals eat those animals, and larger animals again eat those animals, all of which allow microplastic levels to continue accumulating.

Humans, at the top of the food chain, may then eat plastic-contaminated animals.

There is no way to eliminate microplastics from an animal once they are present, and there is no source of wild seafood that can guarantee that their products contain no microplastics at all.

Researchers do not yet fully know the effects of consuming plastic-contaminated seafood on human health. It may take decades to fully understand the effects of microplastics, since some might be cumulative, appearing only after several years.

It is also difficult to control studies into the

Read more

Bottle-fed Babies Ingest ‘Millions’ Of Microplastics: Study

Bottle-fed babies may ingest more than a million pieces of microplastics each day, new research showed Monday highlighting the abundance of plastics in our food products.

There is growing evidence that humans consume huge numbers of the tiny particles, formed when larger pieces of plastic break down, but very little is known about the knock-on health consequences.

Researchers in Ireland looked at the rate of microplastic release in 10 types of baby bottles or accessories made from polypropylene, the most commonly used plastic for food containers.

Very little is known about the knock-on health consequences of microplastic consumption, and the study authors warned against undue alarm Very little is known about the knock-on health consequences of microplastic consumption, and the study authors warned against undue alarm Photo: AFP / JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD

They followed official guidelines from the World Health Organization on sterilisation and formula preparation conditions.

Over a 21-day test period, the team found that the bottles released between 1.3 and 16.2 million plastic microparticles per litre.

They then used this data to model the potential global infant exposure to microplastics from bottle-feeding, based on national average rates of breast-feeding.

Chart showing the estimated exposure of 12-month old babies to microplastics by country, according to new research Chart showing the estimated exposure of 12-month old babies to microplastics by country, according to new research Photo: AFP / John SAEKI

They estimated that the average bottle-fed baby could be ingesting 1.6 million plastic microparticles every day during the first 12 months of their lives.

The authors of the research, published in the Nature Food journal, said that sterilisation and exposure to high water temperatures had the biggest effect on microplastic release, going from 0.6 million particles per litre on average at 25C to 55 million/litre at 95C.

The authors told AFP that the aim of the research was “not to worry parents” about the potential health risks of bottle microplastics.

Chart showing the expected exposure of 12-month old babies to microplastics by country Chart showing the expected exposure of 12-month old babies to microplastics by country Photo: AFP / John SAEKI

“We have communicated, as strongly as we can, that we do not know the potential health risks of infant ingestions of microplastics,” said the team, from Trinity College Dublin.

“This is an area of research we are now actively pursuing.”

The authors noted that it was in developed nations that babies were likely ingesting the most plastic — 2.3 million particles daily in North America and 2.6 million in Europe.

This was attributed to relatively low breast-feeding rates in richer countries.

They said the levels could easily be lowered by taking a few additional steps, including rinsing bottles with cold sterilised water and preparing formula milk in a non-plastic container before filling the bottle.

Fay Couceiro, Senior Research Fellow in Biogeochemistry, University of Portsmouth, said Monday’s research highlighted the “urgency for studies on microplastic impacts on human health”.

She said that it was important not to be “alarmist” when it came to bottle feeding, which many parents prefer for a variety of reasons.

“The risks from not sterilising bottles or using hot water are well understood and very real, and these known risks of disease must outweigh that of microplastic production until their health risks are understood,” said Couceiro, who

Read more