Microplastic: Every breath is a mouthful of plastic

Microplastic: Every breath is a mouthful of plastic

Plastic saves the elephant

In the middle of the last century, the Earth ran into a problem. Their ivory tusks were so sought after to make things like billiard balls and piano keys that the elephant was on the verge of extinction. But the British chemist Alexander Parkes created an artificial substitute in 1862. The age of plastics has come.

Plastic has now become an indispensable part of our lives. For decades, plastic has been everywhere — and its prevalence has devastating consequences. Unlike most natural materials, plastic does not deteriorate. Instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, ending up with what are called microplastics.

Microplastics are defined as pieces of plastic less than 5 millimeters in diameter and fall into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary microplastics are small plastic particles from cosmetics and textiles, while secondary microplastics are broken down from larger products, such as water bottles, fishing nets, and car tires.

Researchers find microplastics everywhere they look: from above de Mount Everest until The deepest seasAnd from forest lakes to the ice at the poles.

The plastic problem will only increase. According to forecasts, the amount of microplastics will increase as we consume plastic.

particle height

Studies of microplastics collected by Janice Brainy of the American Wilderness show up They’ve come a long way. Outside Follow-up analyses It found that 84 percent of microplastics in the western United States come from roads.

When cars drive on the roads, tires and road markings wear down, and plastic-containing road paint dissolves. Brahney’s calculations showed that particles from the road network are blown high into the atmosphere and then fall to the ground with rain or snow. More than 1,000 tons of plastic ends up in protected areas in the United States each year.

Microplastics may have been circulating in the atmosphere for decades. studies Plants that get all their nutrients and moisture from the air have been shown to contain microplastics dating back to the 1960s.

In addition to plastic from the road network, microplastics come from paint, bottles, fishing nets and bags, which are broken down by wind, weather and sun and end up in the sea via rivers and streams. There the plastic breaks down further – and ends up in the atmosphere when microplastic-laden waves crash onto the shore.

We also donate microplastics to ourselves through our daily activities. If you use a plastic keyboard or cutting board, the particles will be released through the abrasion. The same goes for twisting the cap off a soda bottle or rocking a fleece sweater.

A researcher who conducted measurements in a magician’s house found that the level of microplastics in the air increased when the magician shook his playing cards – the plastic in the cards splattered into the air.

Your waste water is also full of them. The particles come from the washer, causing wear and tear on your clothes. About 60 percent of all textiles contain plastic, including clothing. Although wastewater treatment plants remove approximately 60 percent of particulate matter from wastewater, the remainder ends up in nature.

Whales drown in plastic

The consequences of the unimaginable amounts of microplastics in nature are still not clear to scientists.

They know that particles end up in microbes, whales, and everything in between — blue whales sure have transformed 40 kilos of microplastics To be received per day. If too much plastic ends up in the animals’ stomachs, it can cause the animals to stop eating – they are simply full of it, even though the plastic is not providing any nutrients.

              Verrassender is het effect van micro­plastic op het klimaat. In de lucht kunnen de deeltjes bijvoorbeeld de vorming van cirruswolken versterken, die zich vormen wanneer vocht condenseert rond stof in de lucht. En cirruswolken dragen bij aan [de opwarming van de aarde](https://wibnet.nl/klimaat/klimaatverandering/wat-is-opwarming-van-de-aarde-en-wat-zijn-de-gevolgen) door de warmte van de aarde vast te houden.

In [andere gevallen](https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03864-x {"target":"_blank"}) kan het plastic verkoelend werken – afhankelijk van waar het in de atmosfeer terechtkomt..

De langetermijngevolgen zijn al met al nog onduidelijk. Eén ding is echter zeker: microplastics hopen zich op in de natuur – dus hoe gevaarlijk ze ook precies zijn, ze vormen een probleem op zich, omdat we ze niet kunnen verwijderen.

## We zitten vol microplastic
Microplastic is overal in de natuur – en dus ook in ons. Veel van wat we eten en drinken bevat plastic deeltjes die in ons lijf belanden. Een Brits onderzoeksteam ontdekte echter dat we er meer van binnenkrijgen via kleren, tapijten en behang dan via groenten, vis en schaaldieren.

Gelukkig poepen we veel plastic uit, maar niet alles. Nieuwe studies laten zien dat microplastic overal in kan belanden, van [de lever](https://www.thelancet.com/journals/ebiom/article/PIIS2352-3964(22)00328-0/fulltext {"target":|231c721ae2d166f9680e8cabd3ee0ba5}) tot [de longen](https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304389421010888?via=ihub {"target":"_blank"}).

Een omstreden [onderzoeksresultaat](https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412022001258 {"target":"_blank"}) uit 2022 toonde ook aan dat acht van de tien geteste mensen plastic verbindingen – bekend als polymeren – in hun bloed hadden. Maar sommige wetenschappers vermoeden dat dat plastic afkomstig was van de laboratoriumapparatuur.

Misschien nog enger: microplastics kunnen bij zwangere vrouwen overgaan op hun ongeboren foetussen.

Exactly what the particles do to our bodies isn’t clear. from some [studies] (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304389421028302?dgcid=author {“target”: “_blank”}) damages cells or stimulates the immune system.

Some plastics also contain cancer-causing or endocrine-disrupting chemicals. But we don’t yet know exactly what percentage these species make up and what the long-term consequences will be for our health.

We cannot live without plastic

Whatever the consequences of microplastics, it will be impossible to completely solve the problem. Today, there are still no practical solutions for collecting the trillions of plastic particles that are all around us.

We can’t just throw in nature’s clever enzymes to dissolve plastic, because they’ll also break down plastic that’s still in use. The same goes for mealworms that eat plastic. In addition, massive amounts of worms are required to solve the problem, which makes the scenario unrealistic.

So the best we can do is prevent more plastic from ending up in nature. At the moment, there is no good alternative to plastic, so we still need it, but we can reduce its consumption by recycling it more efficiently.

This way we can reduce the single use of plastic. And we need to rethink how we turn plastic waste into new products – something that is currently only possible on a limited scale.

The solution is urgent – but fortunately it goes hand in hand with the outcome of another major challenge: the climate crisis. Plastic is made from oil, which is a fossil fuel that we really have to get rid of. This is why we can kill two birds with one stone.

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