5 Practical Ways to Lessen Microplastic Absorption
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How can people avoid plastic? It is literally everywhere, and worse, we unknowingly ingest this foreign material!
The most recent study about microplastics has seen trace amounts in human blood, and in one study, people ingest plastic approximately the size of a credit card in a week. Of course, not all plastic remains in the system. The body has natural autophagy processes that flush out toxins away (even without those detox remedies sold everywhere).
What are Microplastics’ Health Impacts?
Scientists still do not have definitive health findings directly linking plastic to diseases. But, the cumulative aspect of plastic ingestion could prove serious for human and animal health in the long term.
It's not a stretch to think plastic can harm internal organs and mechanisms inside the body. After all, these are toxic compounds that leave trace amounts of harmful elements. For example, some plastics are made with chlorine, lead, and other toxins. With the amount of trace plastic being absorbed, it's no longer a question of if plastics will affect health. Only time can tell HOW microplastics - foreign particles that are non-organic - impacts us.
Where Does All the Plastic Come From?
People consume microplastics from different channels. The particles are in certain foods like seafood, all over the air we breathe, and some leach off from packaging and other plastic goods that are used without even a second thought.
Scientists are the first to admit that it's hard if not almost impossible to avoid microplastics altogether. Because the particles have pervaded most urban spaces and even the air, people will be exposed to them. In fact, our article here talks about how plastics are found in snow samples across Antarctica! Even the remote region has microplastics, likely brought about by the wind patterns and sea movement.
Experts who test trace amounts of plastic cite some common sources like polyester and nylon used in clothing, furniture, and other products. The ubiquitous plastic bags and straws wash off in seas and break down into micro- and nanoplastics. Microfibers can also be shed from plastic-based textiles and tend to dissipate into air and water.
5 Practical Ways to Lessen Microplastic Absorption
Microplastics exposure won't be any better anytime soon, as industries and consumers still rely heavily on this versatile material. But there are practical lifestyle changes worth trying in order to reduce the amount of plastic absorbed by the body. These include the following:
Choose RO Filter for Drinking Water
Bottled water may be convenient, but it's one source of plastic particles that's easily avoidable. Switching to tap water or better yet, installing a filtration system at home for your drinking water can purify the water from any impurities, including microplastics.
Aside from a filtration system, you'd want to use steel or glass kettle to heat your water. Plastic kettles leach off particles onto the water being heated, creating that avenue for you to absorb microplastics via the hot water for your coffee, tea, or any other meal.
If you have to use bottled water, take note not to drink one that's stayed under the sun, or do not reuse the bottle if possible. Again, the problem is with the microscopic particles breaking down and seeping into the water; minimize or avoid bottled water use to eliminate the chances of your potable water containing microplastics.
2. Eat Less of Certain Foods
The common culprits for having trace amounts of microplastics include seafood, plastic-packaged food for takeaways, and produce wrapped in flimsy plastic. These foods are unfortunately common in every household, but you may want to think twice when consuming these foods.
Seafood will inevitably contain plastics because marine systems are the dumping areas for plastic waste, aside from landfills. Eating less fish and seafood could help ease the amount of microplastics you ingest. Also, prioritizing farmers market shopping (when available) and making sure you get plastic-free produce from the supermarket can lessen your chances of ingesting microplastics.
3. Be Mindful of Plastic Materials and Furniture
Microplastics are in the very air we breathe. One 2020 study across 12 countries found that indoor dust contains high concentrations of PET-based microplastics - most likely from plastic textile and furnishings.
The less plastic materials inside the home, the better. If there's less plastic that can disintegrate, and less dust that accumulate in indoor spaces. And to further curb exposure, indoor spaces must be well ventilated so as not to let microplastics from dust settle and be easily breathed by people inside the home.
4. Check Personal Care Products for Microbeads
Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic found in many beauty products, including shower gels, makeup, facial cleansing formulas, lipsticks, body scrubs, and more. While makeup isn't really ingested or inhaled on purpose, the close contact on the skin for long hours could be another channel for microplastics to enter the body. Since the particles are so small and lightweight, it can still dissipate and be easily inhaled or ingested.
One awesome tool can help point out which products contain microbeads. It's called Beat the Microbead - an app developed by the Plastic Soup Foundation. This app provides info on thousands of products based on the ingredients list and product info. The app uses text-recognition tech to help you choose alternative products if you find that your current stash has microbeads in them.
5. Use Apps to Check Your Plastic Mass Index (PMI)
Aside from Beat the Microbead, other useful apps can help you navigate microplastic reduction in your home and workplace.
My Little Plastic Footprint provides an in-depth review of how much plastic footprint you have in your current lifestyle. Users will answer a series of questions about the products they use, daily routines, work and home arrangements, and more. From that data, the app can estimate your Plastic Mass Index - or how much your contribution to plastic pollution.
The PMI will also give you an idea of how much microplastic exposure you have. The app can also recommend some sustainable alternatives that each user can adopt. It can pave the way for your plastic diet, so to speak.
Plastic exposure due to microplastics in water, air, food, and everyday goods make it impossible to be entirely devoid of plastics.
These simple ways discussed above can lessen your exposure, but the bigger picture is still about changing the course of how corporations and policies should curb the use of plastics in the first place. While it remains to be seen how microplastics absorption in the body could directly affect health, plastic is a global crisis that should be tackled at all levels.