Earth

What Are Microplastics? And How Are They Harming Us?

Jul 15 2021 By Minal Niraula  
split image of fishes and dead fish



split image of fishes and dead fish
Image by M. Maggs from Pixabay

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastics that come from larger pieces of plastics that have broken down. This process happens when plastic waste is put in the ocean and seas. It breaks down over time into smaller pieces from being exposed to heatwaves and sunlight. And then they break down even more into microplastics.

The pollution is not just in oceans, rivers, lakes, streams—it’s in our air too! Microplastic pollution can be carried on the wind or blown about by the dust in a way that contaminates our homes. Even outside your home, you may be breathing them! If you live in an urban area chances are good there’s a fair amount of this stuff right around your home.

Creation of Microplastics

Straws turn into microplastics
Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic less than 5 millimeters in length. A wide variety of companies make them, from polyester to personal hygiene products. And then the plastics escape into the environment and become a part of our landscapes and oceans.

The microplastics accumulate over time due to their small size, which makes them hard to clean up. The most significant source for this pollution is washing synthetic fabrics like those used in clothing or bedding. Plastics harm marine life because they appear like food from afar, but are indigestible for animals.

How are they harming us?

Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic that pollute our environment, and there are three major sources – water bottles, clothes, and cosmetics. These plastics come in the form of small pellets or fibers embedded into fabrics. When washed, they break down into even smaller pieces but persist in the water supply.

Patient with Iv Line
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Microbeads found in cosmetics such as skin exfoliators (used to remove dead cells) are an example of how microplastics enter our food chain, as when they’ve rinsed down the drain they make their way to oceans and lakes where fish feed on them – which means we do too.

Microplastics are harmful to us in many ways: ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact. It is possible to inhale microplastics after they’re washable from fabrics into wastewater, causing respiratory problems.

These plastics can also lead to digestive problems in humans, as they absorb toxins from the environment and release them when consumed, which can also affect our organs and blood.

The effects of microplastics have been demonstrated through exposure to water fleas (Daphnia Magna). Daphnia Magna is a small crustacean that feeds on algae and zooplankton in freshwater lakes. The microplastic fibers caused a 50% reduction in reproductive output of the water flea. They also reported malformations in organisms that ingested poly fibers. Similarly, physical internal damage also happened due to the ingestion of microplastics.

Therefore, scientists have assumed that we may encounter a similar fate if we continue plastic production and usage at the present rate.

Also read: Plastic Pollution Facts: The Causes And It’s Solution

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