Microplastic is a type of plastic waste that is less than five millimeters (about the size of a sesame seed or smaller). They are categorized based on their sources: primary and secondary.
Primary microscopy is made of such size (such as small plastic beads found in toothpaste and facial scrubs), while secondary microplastic is a piece of plastic that decomposes from larger pieces (such as plastic that breaks down in a tube or plastic water bottle). .
Once micro plastics enter the environment, they do not break down. Instead, they accumulate (especially in our oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams) and are then consumed by wildlife and humans.
Research shows that most microplastic in our body comes from the air we breathe, both inside and outside the room.
In fact, microplastic pollution is so intense that even remote, mountainous areas that are genuine are victims of this.
A recent study published in Nature Geoscience found that microplastics showered on remote mountain peaks. Scientists recorded a daily rate of 365 microplastic particles per square meter that fell from the sky in the Pyrenees Mountains in southern France. Research shows that micro plastics can travel more than 60 miles (or 95 kilometers) in the air. So, even if you don’t live in a densely populated area (such as a city), micro plastics can still “reach out and affect remote areas, which are rarely inhabited through atmospheric transportation.”
The most commonly found microplastic are polystyrene and polyethylene, both of which are widely used in disposable packaging and plastic bags.
“When you go down to particle size breathing, we don’t know what they are doing,” Deonie Allen, a researcher at EcoLab, told The Guardian. “That is an unknown thing, and we don’t want it to end like asbestos.”
Unfortunately, researchers have studied the effects of plastic particles on lung tissue, and the findings are alarming. According to one study, “bioresistant and biopersistent cellulose and plastic fibers are candidate agents that contribute to the risk of lung cancer.”
The opportunity to breathe in micro plastic increases exponentially as you travel from the outside into the room, according to research presented in 2018 by the École Nationales des Ponts et Chaussées.
Mycroplastic from indoor air results from fragmentation through friction, heat, or the light of plastic objects found around our homes. This includes toys, furniture, clothing, plastic bags, cosmetics, toothpaste and scrubs. The worst actors are furniture and clothing made of synthetic materials such as acrylic, nylon and polyester (which constitutes 60% of global textile production). These microplastic fibers are longer than most fibers, and are therefore more dangerous when inhaled.
The full health effects of breathing in micro plastic have not been fully understood, but research has shown that the threat to human health is high.
Health Hazards of Microscopy
Does swallowing or breathing microplastic damage health? According to many studies, that is true. Many studies have been carried out on plastic focus on nano-sized plastic particles. Microscopes smaller than 25 microns can enter the human body through the nose or mouth, and less than five microns can end up in lung tissue.
Microplastic also tends to be sticky and can therefore accumulate heavy metals such as mercury and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) including brominated fire inhibitors and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). For this reason, they are a great danger to health not only humans, but respiratory organisms.
1. Respiratory Health
As mentioned above, plastic fibers have been found in human lung tissue, with the researchers suggesting that they are “candidate agents that contribute to the risk of lung cancer”.
Factory workers who handle nylon and polyester also show evidence of lung irritation and reduced respiratory capacity. In a scientific review called ‘Plastics and Human Health: Micro Problems? “, The researchers describe various ways in which microplastic irritates lung tissue. They note that some plastic fibers avoid the cleansing mechanism of the lungs (such as being encapsulated in mucus to cough), and instead stay in the lungs, causing acute or chronic inflammation.
The review also outlines how fiber size plays a role in toxicity. Thinner fibers can be inhaled, while longer fibers are more persistent and toxic to lung cells. Fibers that are 15-20 micrometers in length cannot be efficiently cleared from the lungs by alveolar macrophages and mucociliary escalators. Smaller fibers (less than 0.3 micrometers in length and more than 10 micrometers) are the most carcinogenic.
Fine-diameter fibers (which are most associated with lung cancer) have been increasing in production for years, especially in the sportswear industry (such as yoga pants).
2. Inflammation and Immune Response
The immunological response to plastic in the body depends mainly on the type of plastic used. Many studies have found that polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is more dangerous than polyethylene (PE). In a study conducted on plastic prosthetic implants, the surrounding tissue underwent a drastic change in reaction to PET particles. In the joint cavity with a large amount of PET fiber, the immune system is unable to move particles out of the body (through the lymphatic system), causing stress and being overloaded with the immune system.
In another study, PE wear particles were detected in the liver or spleen of 14% of patients. The identified PE particles measure less than 1 micrometer and accumulate in the liver “portal channel” (most likely through lymphatic transport). The inflammatory response to plastic wear particles such as PET and PE in lymph nodes has been shown to include immune activation of macrophages and cytokine production.
This can, over time, lead to autoimmune diseases as a result of continually burning, and emphasizing the immune system (and resulting in chronic inflammation).
3. Digestive System Disorders
The fact that microplastic has been found in human stool samples shows major implications for our overall intestinal function.