Microplastics are all around us, in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, in some of the clothes we wear, and even in some of the foods we eat. Depressing? Yes! But the good news is there is a lot you can do about it, not only to reduce you or your family’s impact on the natural environment, but also to improve your overall health. Why? Scientists are just starting to understand the effects of microplastics on our health but indications are that it's not good. According to Leah Bendell, an ecotoxicologist at Simon Fraser University in Canada, “some [microplastics] might harbor toxic chemicals, while others could be suitable vectors for bacteria and parasites.” A report by Science Daily said, "in addition to possibly causing tissue damage and inflammation, microplastics could be a source of carcinogens and other harmful compounds that leach from plastic into the body." Even though more research needs to be done on this emerging human health threat, we certainly want to get ahead of the problem and decrease the amount of microplastics we ingest.
How can I reduce the amount of microplastics I ingest?
1. Cut out plastic water bottles entirely. According to National Geographic, "People who meet their recommended water intake through tap water ingest 4,000 plastic particles annually [just from drinking water], while those who drink only bottled water ingest an additional 90,000", a recent study found. Invest in charcoal water filters and stainless steel refillable water bottles and ditch the disposable ones. Your wallet will thank you as well.
2. Reduce seafood consumption. According to WebMD and recent research by Hull York Medical School and the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, “microplastic content was 0 to 10.5 microplastics per gram in mollusks, 0.1 to 8.6 microplastics per gram in crustaceans and 0 to 2.9 microplastics per gram in fish.” The levels of microplastic content found in shellfish in particular are the highest recorded in any type of food.
3. Drink less beer. According to Dmarge, a recent University of Newcastle researchers’ analysis indicated, beer tends to contain microplastics. This is because it's made with water. Consider replacing beer with wine which is not made with water.
4. Eat less sea salt. According to Nest & Glow, “studies have shown that 1KG of sea salt can contain over 600 microplastics.” Dmarge suggests, “purchase a high-quality brand of rock salt formed before the world was polluted (i.e. Himalayan pink).” This is likely a good alternative because it doesn’t come from the ocean which is polluted with microplastics.
How can I reduce the amount of microplastics I am responsible for putting out into the natural environment?
1. Wash synthetic clothing less; stop buying it all together, and switch to natural fiber clothing. Microfibers shed from textiles like nylon and polyester, one of the worst offenders is fleece clothing such as pajamas and jackets. These often shed microfibers in the wash which in turn enter the ecosystem through washing machine wastewater.
There’s two things you can do here:
Choose natural fiber clothing instead of synthetic, such as wool, organic cotton, cashmere, linen, silk and hemp.
Wash clothing made of synthetic fibers as infrequently as possible. Invest in a microfiber filter for your washing machine and synthetic clothing.
2. Tires- Tires shed a lot of microplastic pieces. Drive less, ride your bike more!
3. Cigarette butts- Cigarette butts have plastic foam in them which shed microplastics. Each time you inhale you are also inhaling microplastic fragments. Quit today!
4. Glitter- Glitter is a form of microplastic. All parents know how it is a nuisance in the house because it sticks to everything and gets everywhere, guess what? It does the same thing in nature. Switch to natural glitter or just don’t buy it at all.
5. Wet wipes- Wet wipes shed microplastic fibers into the water and natural environment and are the bane of wastewater professionals as they also block pipes over time. Switch to good old fashioned hand washing (or liquid hand sanitizer) for sanitizing hands, and toilet paper for using the toilet.
6. Most importantly, switch your lifestyle and household over to Zero Waste! This will help you reduce both plastic recyclables and trash, helping to cut down on pollution that gets into the environment and eventually breaks down into microplastics. Follow us @thinkzerohome on Insta for hundreds of tips on how to Zero Waste your life and house.