Microplastics destroy ecosystems and threaten human health Microplastics destroy ecosystems and threaten human health

Microplastics destroy ecosystems and threaten human health

Microplastics destroy ecosystems and threaten human health

Plastic is one of the most widespread and common materials on the planet. Although it has provided great benefits to human civilization, plastics are now responsible for significant damage to human health and various ecosystems.

Plastics are complex and heterogeneous synthetic chemicals. Plastics consist of basic carbon-based polymers, in addition to thousands of chemicals that are incorporated into the polymers to obtain specific properties such as color, flexibility, stability, high temperature tolerance, and resistance to ultraviolet rays.

However, many of these added chemicals are highly toxic, including carcinogens, neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors that affect human health and the ecosystem in general.

Plastic problem
The main problem with plastic is that it takes a long time to decompose in nature, and its decomposition period may reach hundreds of years. Therefore, due to the lack of recycling programs, tons of plastic waste accumulate in the oceans and on land.

The United Nations estimates that about 13 million tons of plastic waste are thrown into the oceans annually, while only about 9% of it is recycled.

A report issued by the United Nations Environment Program confirms that 85% of marine litter is plastic, and the report warns that by 2040 the amount of plastic waste flowing into the ocean will nearly triple, and that 23 to 37 million tons of plastic waste will be added to the ocean.

Microplastics are an additional problem
Microplastics, or microplastics, are small plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in diameter, which is approximately the size of a sesame seed.

Microplastics exist in nature as a result of the disintegration and breakage of larger plastic pieces, such as water bottles, plastic cans, or car tires. This occurs either through chemical decomposition, or corrosion into smaller pieces due to exposure to environmental factors, especially sunlight, ocean waves, and mechanical stress.

Microplastics are also used in some industries, such as cosmetics and toothpaste, and can be produced from microfibers shed from clothing and other textiles, such as fishing nets.

Scientists estimate that there are at least 170 trillion plastic particles in the oceans, with a total weight of about two million tons.


Your washing machine is the number one source of microplastics
Textiles shed some of their microfibers either during manufacture, wearing, or upon disposal, but washing clothes is the main source of them.

It is estimated that clothing made from synthetic fibers, which represents approximately 60% of annual global textile consumption, is the main source of microplastics, contributing about 35% of the volume of these microparticles released into the world's oceans.

Polyester clothes shed a large number of fibres, and a typical 6kg wash load of synthetic fabrics can release up to 7 million plastic fibers in each wash, depending on a number of factors such as the type of fabric, type of detergent and water temperature.

These microfibers enter wastewater streams, which generally reach special treatment plants, but they can reach bodies of water, waterways, and rivers directly and end up in the seas and oceans.

Advanced treatment plants can remove up to 99 percent of microfibers from water, but since a single wash load can produce millions of fibers, the treated water discharged from the plant still contains a large number of them.

Microfibers removed during treatment end up in sewage sludge and often become soil fertilizer, which allows microplastics to enter the air and soil, move into the terrestrial food web and be absorbed by agricultural crops.

Microplastics in the human body
In April 2022, researchers from the British Hull York Medical College found microplastic particles for the first time in living human lungs, and this was previously thought to be impossible due to the narrow bronchial tubes in the lungs.

Scientists found 39 microplastics in 11 out of 13 lung tissue samples tested, and the microplastics belong to 12 types of plastic used in containers, bottles, clothes and ropes.

The study comes shortly after the discovery of microplastic particles in human blood for the first time. Examination of blood samples from 22 volunteers showed the presence of plastic particles in about 80% of them, which highlights the extent of the spread of such particles in the human body.

Microplastic particles are transmitted to the human body through the food chain, especially through fish and other seafood. Fish often ingest plastic particles either directly or when they feed on smaller fish that carry these particles. These particles can also reach our tables through Sea salt. The maximum daily dose of five grams of salt may include three pieces of microplastic.

Bottled water is also one of the largest sources of microplastics we consume, with single-use water bottles containing between 2 and 44 microplastics per liter, while returnable bottles contain between 28 and 241 microplastics per litre.

Although it is well known that microplastics reach our bodies, most scientists still believe that more research is needed to determine the full impact of microplastics on human health.

According to the World Health Organization, the current levels of microplastics found in drinking water do not appear to pose a health risk, and that there is a need to investigate the matter to a greater extent, in addition to prioritizing the removal of pathogenic microbial organisms and chemicals that pose known risks to human health.

Microplastics in clouds does they affect the climate?
Microplastics continue to appear increasingly in unexpected places, seeping into almost every aspect of life on Earth, even reaching into the clouds, and may even be able to affect the weather.

In a study published in November 2023 in the Environmental Science and Technology Letters of the American Chemical Society, researchers discovered microplastic particles in the majority of cloud samples taken from the summit of Mount Tai in China, and the researchers indicated that these small particles could play a role. In forming clouds, and thus influencing the weather.

Clouds are formed by the transformation of water vapor from its gaseous form into liquid water droplets, and many water droplets must gather together to form a cloud, and small solid particles present in the atmosphere - such as dust or ash - help to condense the vapor and collect water droplets, and according to the study, it can Adding microplastic particles to these agents.

As clouds produce rain and snow and block sunlight, thus lowering temperatures on Earth, researchers believe that these microplastic particles have a strong potential impact on changing weather patterns in the future.

Microplastics in the poles
A team of scientists has found microplastic particles in remote areas of the Arctic ice, which could be considered a serious indicator of the extent of plastic pollution across the planet.

The researchers found that pieces of plastic were more abundant in the floating ice than in the surrounding waters, suggesting that the ice acts as a filter for particles arriving from air masses or ocean currents.

The research team found the ice in Lancaster Sound, an isolated area of ​​Canada's polar ice that is supposed to be relatively protected from plastic pollution.

On the opposite pole of the planet, the International Atomic Energy Agency recently began a research trip to verify the presence of microplastics in Antarctica, with the aim of combating this problem that has reached the most remote regions of the Earth within the framework of the agency’s “Nutech” plastics initiative (which stands for nuclear technology). To combat plastic pollution, the team will work to study the impact of microplastics and verify their presence and locations of their distribution in seawater, lakes, sediments, sand, drainage water, and the fauna of the Antarctic ecosystem near the Argentine Carlini Scientific Research Station.

Researchers are studying the possibility of microplastics contributing to accelerating the melting of ice in Antarctica, as plastic granules are supposed to reduce the reflectivity of the ice and change its properties, enhance microbial activity and act as thermal insulators.

Researchers also fear the impact of this on the food chain of living organisms in the Antarctic region, which may affect the ability of these organisms to adapt to climate change.

3 Comments

  1. The post highlights the extensive reach and impact of plastics on human health and ecosystems, from oceans to human bodies. It emphasizes urgent global action and underscores the need for further research.





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  2. The United Nations estimates that about 13 million tons of plastic waste are thrown into the oceans annually, while only about 9% of it is recycled.

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