Should you manage to avoid succumbing to COVID, there are still plenty of unseen killers out there, and one of them is microplastics. Those are tiny pieces of plastic, smaller than 5 mm and often quite a bit smaller (hence the name “micro”).
Microplastics are ubiquitous, being used in a variety of industries. They are also created when plastic objects are broken down. And they are often ingested. The simple act of a baby chewing on a plastic pacifier is now fraught with peril, according to reporting by Euronews.com on 1 October.
Scientists used to believe that ingested microplastics passed harmlessly through the human digestive system. Indeed, researchers examining fecal samples from 10 adults and 6 babies in New York State found two common types of microplastics, polycarbonate (PC) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in all of them.
But the babies’ samples contained at least 10 times as much as the adults’. It’s believed that the babies ingested higher levels from objects like pacifiers and from crawling around on carpets containing plastic particles.
And while the microplastics found in such sampling did appear to have passed through, concern is increasing that the smallest particles can cross cell membranes and enter the bloodstream. Studies of lab animals suggest that microplastics have caused cell death, inflammation, and metabolic disorders.
These newfound risks to humans follow on the already known environmental hazards of microplastics. As was believed about humans, it had been believed that fish could harmlessly ingest and eliminate microplastics, but recent findings by Duke University indicate that chemicals coating the microplastics affected the fishes’ reproductive hormones.
TREND FORECAST: Before the COVID War began, there were strong anti-plastic movements sweeping much of the globe. Those have ended. Indeed, plastic bags were being banned in New York State on 1 March 2020, but when COVID came, people were restricted to bring their own “COVID carrying shopping bags” into stores and had to use the plastic ones provided.
When the COVID War ends, the major issue making the news will be Climate change, and the anti-plastic movement will gain further momentum.
TRENDPOST: It’s just one more thing polluting our water; see “YOU THINK COVID WILL KILL YOU? HAVE A DRINK OF WATER!” (15 Jun 2021). One source of microplastics in water is the particles shed by synthetic fiber fabrics during laundering. So the new findings are an argument for avoiding synthetic fabrics. Failing that, however, scientists suggest washing synthetics only in full washloads, as that will result in less friction and fewer microplastics going down the drain.
And as reported, the mussel may prove even more useful in its role of “filterer of the sea” by helping to remove microplastics; scientists found that 300 mussels could filter out a quarter-million pieces of microplastic in an hour… but a mussel full of plastic might not be the seafood of choice to ingest.