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Perhaps you’ve heard of or read recent studies regarding where all of those plastic water bottles we’ve all sworn off of at one time or another are ultimately ending up. Or maybe you’ve stumbled upon that cute little in your Facebook feed, the cheerful yet informative illustrated short detailing the various life-cycles of 3 “single-use” water bottles. And maybe by now, you’re curious about the potential dangers of ingesting foods, mainly of the aquatic variety, that may contain some level of these ‘microplastics’ you’ve been hearing about. Is there cause for concern? The jury of the scientific world is still out, but the evidence points to a serious need to address our prolific use of the ubiquitous man-made “miracle” material and just what it means for us humans to ingest this offensive substance.
So what’s the story in a nutshell and how is it that microplastic makes its way onto your plate? The short answer begins with one simple fact: Plastic never biodegrades. Never. It breaks down into smaller and ever smaller pieces known as microplastics. These tiny pieces of plastic, ranging in size from 5mm down to 10nanometres, then attract micro-organisms. These micro-organisms use them as floating barges to grow on. This and the subsequent leaching of chemicals that are contained within the plastics over time and continued UV exposure (chemicals we use for the desirable attributes that they then create within the polymers−flame retardancy, antimicrobial properties, etc.) sometimes give off an odor that then tricks smaller animals into thinking of it as food. Small animals get eaten by larger animals. Up and up the food chain it travels until it finally makes its way in some form or other onto our plates and into our bodies. But did you know that the consumption of tainted seafood is not the only way in which we ingest plastics?
Microparticles of plastic are even finding their way into our. These fibers are far too small to effectively filter out of our wastewater and come straight out of the tap and into our bodies on the cellular level. A quick google search of the long-term effects of exposure to chemicals contained within plastics shows them as linked to such ailments as hormone disruption, genital malformations, reduced fertility, and even cancer.
To this end and with so many variable points of contact, it is difficult to assess ultimately to what level the exposure and the consumption of plastics and the chemicals contained within them produce these and many other harmful side effects for humans. Regardless, there is enough evidence out there to hopefully begin to create pause within our minds. Have we gone too far into the depths of our addiction to this miracle of modern science with this product we have come to know and use so frequently, that has made daily life all the more convenient and single-serving friendly for so many of us? A product able to as indiscriminately as it would ?
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