A Guide to Minimizing Exposure to Microplastic Particles in our Environment

From Environmental Commission
As taken from the New York Times Article on June 11, written by Sarah Sloat, A researcher at the University of New Mexico recently found microplastics in human testicles. He was not surprised because they have been found in breast milk, lungs and blood. Microplastics are so tiny that it is easy to ingest them. 
Are microplastics harmful to human health? The answers are not all in, but early research points out some possibilities. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease had more microplastics in their feces than those with fewer. Likewise, people with microplastics in their blood vessels had an increased risk of heart complications.  
While it is impossible to avoid contact with all the microplastics, there are a few ways to minimize our exposure in our daily lives which have been suggested by scientists doing research on the effects of these tiny invaders.
1. CHANGING YOUR DIET Avoid highly processed foods. One of the worst Is chicken nuggets. Highly processed foods have more contact with plastic food-production equipment. In any food you eat, the less processed the less exposure to plastic contamination.
2. PLASTIC PACKAGING Although plastic helps to preserve food, it can also generate small amounts of microplastics which can be shed into your food. Try using glass containers instead of plastic to store food. Switch your plastic cutting board to a wooden one. Heat from your microwave or dishwasher can cause plastics to break down thereby emiting microplastics into your food. 
3. BABY FORMULA A 2020 study found that baby formula heated in a plastic bottle can emit microplastic particles into the formula.  
4. BOTTLED WATER AND MICROPLASTCS Water treatment plants cannot get rid of all the microplastics in tap water, but research has shown that the level of microplastics is typically HIGHER in BOTTLED WATER than in TAP water. This could be from the bottling process, the plastic bottles themselves or even the opening and closing of the cap.
5. PLASTIC IN BEDDING, CLOTHES AND FURNITURE Plastic is often found in the manufacture of clothing, furniture and carpeting. Synthetic fabrics, which today are used in many of our fabrics, can be worn down by friction, heating, lighting and general wear and tear. Once inhaled, through no action on our part, these particles can move through the body, entering the bloodstream and organs.
Experts suggest keeping furniture made from polypropylene fabrics out of the direct sunlight, or choosing another fabric.
a. Vacuuming can remove some microplastics from the home. One expert suggests using a vacuum with a HEPA filter to capture the smallest microplastics in your environment, although it is likely that the smallest particles will avoid capture.
b. Use a damp cloth rather than a duster to prevent the spread of microplastics indoors.
7. LAUNDRY An estimated 60% of our clothing is plastic-based making it very difficult to avoid on a daily basis. Microplastics are shed into the laundry and make their way to our rivers, streams and eventually the ocean and will end up in our drinking water. 
The remedies are minimal, short of buying clothes that are not plastic-based. Experts on the prevalence of microplastics in the home and in clothing suggest doing laundry less often, washing full loads and line drying. All of these are imperfect, but helpful.
In sum, we can only limit our exposure to microplastics, not end it, but it is helpful to know and be aware of the better choices we can make, both in what we purchase and in our daily habits, and encourage others to do the same. 
Last updated 7/8/2024 2:15:26 PM