Microplastics – Are they harmful?


The plastic containers shed a lot of small specks known as Microplastics. One might end up swallowing millions of microplastics while consuming something stored or made in plastic containers.

Researches have been going on since long about the harmful effects of the microplastics. Although most of the studies were done on the effects over marine life.

The term “Microplastics” was coined by a marine ecologist of the University of Plymouth in the year 2004. He described it as plastic particles measuring less than 5 millimeters across.

According to scientists, these plastics are literally found everywhere ranging from antarctic ice, deep oceans, in fishes, drinking water or beer, table salt and also fall along with rain drops. And they say that it may take more than decades to degrade.

Earlier investigations were focused on the microbeads found in personal care products which escaped the molding process and also the fragments of microplastics were found which eroded slowly from the plastics in which products were stored.

A research done by oceanographers in the year 2015 revealed that more than 15 trillion to 51 trillion Microplastics float in water body surfaces around the globe.

Surveys suggest that microplastics are present in almost every surfaces ranging from water, air and adult as well as children ingest about 100,000 pieces of microplastics on everyday basis.

Now, researchers are taking a step forward to investigate the harmful effects of microplastics on humans. Earlier researches were done mostly on animals and evaluation on animals was an easier task as compared to that of humans.

It is seen that microplastics affect animals species by making them less reproducible or cause physical damage and anything is not yet clear as every microplastic has different shape size and chemical composition.

What researchers are worried more about are the nanoplastics which are less than 1 millimeter.

In humans, microplastics may cause cell damage, they may act as foreign particle and cause irritation or the chemical present in those plastics like asbestos may cause cancer as they are carcinogenic. Moreover, these microplastics contribute to the air pollution.

Hence, scientists say that we have set Plastic time bomb for ourselves as there is no chance of them getting degraded easily and they will any how affect the human lives.

Microplastics collected from a surface water sample taken in San Francisco Bay, California, USA.

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Monica Williams

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