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

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EPA refuses to reduce particulate pollution, linked by scientists to coronavirus deaths | Environment

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In April, as coronavirus cases multiplied across the country, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected scientists’ advice to tighten air pollution standards for particulate matter, or soot.

In the next few weeks, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler likely will reaffirm that decision with a final ruling, despite emerging evidence that links particulate pollution to COVID-19 deaths.

There was enough evidence to support a stricter standard before the pandemic, said Christopher Frey, an environmental engineering professor at North Carolina State University who studies air pollution. The added threat from the coronavirus is like “icing on the cake.”

Particulate matter kills people. “It is responsible for more deaths and sickness than any other air pollutant in the world,” said Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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Wheeler’s decision was specifically about fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, microscopic solid and liquid droplets less than one-thirtieth the width of a human hair. The pollution comes from cars, power plants, wildfires and anything that burns fossil fuels. It causes health complications that can lead people to die earlier than they would have, and it is linked to conditions such as COPD, asthma and diabetes.

Frey was part of a 26-member scientific panel that advised the EPA on particulate pollution until Wheeler disbanded the group in 2018. Twenty of the former members continued to review the science and provided unofficial advice to Wheeler as part of the public comment process. Their letter told Wheeler— a former coal lobbyist — that tightening the standard would avoid tens of thousands of premature deaths per year.

Firing the advisory panel and opting not to pursue a more stringent particulate standard were in keeping with the administration of President Donald Trump’s dim view of environmental regulation. By one tally compiled by The New York Times, 72 regulations on air, water and soil pollution, climate change and ecosystems have been canceled or weakened, with an additional 27 in progress. EPA leadership has sidelined or ignored research by agency scientists, and career staff are censoring their reports to avoid terms like “climate change” out of fear of repercussions from political staff.

The EPA has an “apparatus of particulate matter science denial” that rivals its attacks on climate science, Frey said. “If I wanted to get rid of [regulations on] particulate matter, I would do all the things Wheeler is doing.”

Wheeler made his decision “after carefully reviewing [the] scientific evidence and consulting with the agency’s independent science advisors,” an EPA spokesperson said in a statement. “The U.S. now has some of the lowest fine particulate matter levels in the world, five times below the global average, seven times below Chinese levels, and 20 percent lower than France, Germany and Great Britain.”

These

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