Microplastics are any piece of plastic that is 5 mm or smaller. Microplastics can be in just about anything that humans produce. Clothing, Cosmetics, Food, Drinks, and many more. Many factors contribute to the airborne microplastic particles. These are synthetic fibers, plastic product deterioration, burning of refuse, emissions from both industry and transportation, Re-suspension of dust. All these factors make up the microplastic problem we find ourselves in today.

How do they get into the food stream?

Most of the microplastics enter the environment by small fish. The reason for this is these small fish like zooplankton will accidentally think that this is food. Then this food will make its way up the food chain from animal to animal and eventually end up being ingested by humans. While they keep getting passed up along the food chain most of the plastic is not ingested and passes through the bodies of this animal. However, this plastic will cause abrasions and chances for the littler pieces of plastic to get passed into the blood stream and cause a whole slew of issues. Nano plastics can pass through the gut wall and travel through the body to the different parts of the body. And this has only been observed in animals. In humans it is much more relevant as plastic is stated by the Europeans unions scientific mechanism that microplastics can now be found in every part of the environment. This means that anywhere you go you will find microplastics there. Even if it is in the most remote part of the world, you will find them there. So, we could go to any place and technically breathe in tiny little microplastics by just being there. In humans the majority of microplastics and their chemicals are associated with them. Food Pkg, Water, in the air, in the grass and trees. They are so entwined in our environment that we cannot escape them. Food Pkg is a big one because everything we eat comes in plastic. Except a handful of products that come in glass or a wax lined paper or carton of some sort with no plastic. So, this is the biggest source of microplastics in our diet. A big secondary one is the water bottle. Almost all water bottles come in plastic and only a few come in glass. And by nature of the plastic, it will leach into the water and get into the body. Of course, this will mostly filter out of the body but not all of it. Microplastics have been found in the fecal matter of humans. This means that it is getting into our stomach at some level and passing through our bodies, but do we really know if it is. In a recent study in the Netherlands, they sampled 22 people and 17 of the 22 people had plastic in their blood stream. That is a staggering number. I am going to assume that in the Netherlands they don’t use as much plastic as the US does. So most likely most people in the US have some sort of plastic floating around in their blood stream. They only sampled PMMA, PP, PS, PE, and PET. I think that this is too narrow of a range to be looking for this kind of thing. But it is more surprising that 76% of the participants had these plastics in their body and they only looked for 5 different kinds. Imagine if they would’ve included HDPE, LLDPE, LDPE, Nylon, Etc. The group would most likely be at 100%. It has also been reported that microplastics have been found in the placenta and brain of unborn babies. This is a scary thought because what if these plastics are altering the development of young kids. I will touch on this later in the paper. It has been noted that we eat about a credit card size of microplastics a week. It is also stated that every decade we are alive we consume about 2.5kg of plastics. That is the same amount as a buoy. These are just what scientists are thinking with the current data that is available.

Negative Effects on the environment

Plastics is forever changing our world. Since the 50’s more than 50 million tons of microplastics have been dumped into the oceans due to industrial manufacturing process. This is so much plastic and these are just estimates. And by the year 2040 this is said to have doubled at least. With this the environment may never recover. It is already on every single known part of the planet and that is just crazy. If we keep this pace up, we will destroy the place we call home. But by us affecting the environment we are just affecting ourselves.

Negative effects on human health

It seems like everything in today’s day of age is trying to kill you. And plastics is one of those things that is doing that. We will first cover BPA Bisphenol A. BPA is a chemical that is used when making plastic. They use this chemical to make the plastic clearer and look better. This chemical is known to be an endocrine disrupter in the Human body. And it is crazy that some of the companies out there still use this chemical. BPA mimics the structure and function of the hormone estrogen. This can affect growth, cell repair, fetal development, energy levels, and reproduction. This is huge as this is only a little part of the plastic problem. This could be a big reason why a lot of people are unhappy with themselves as this mimics their own hormones and can possibly lead to major problems later. And this product is contained in just about every single product. Recently It has been discovered to be in human urine. This is big news as this means we are consuming enough of it to be in our urine. A study was complete about the effects of the male and female reproductive system. In this study they did studies on mice. In the male mice they had two tests one with BPA free water and one that was treated with BPA water. In the trial the one that had no BPA water was unaffected. But the one that had the BPA water had lower testosterone levels, diminished sperm quantities and greater infertility levels. And in the female mice the one treated had decreased hormone estradiol, reducing the number of healthy eggs and negative effect of a fertilized egg being able to plant itself in the uterus. I believe that this lines up very closely with what we have seen in the real world. Plastic has not been around for all that long but during that time that it has been out the male and female population have both been affected very heavily. To the right is a graph of male sperm levels as the decades go along notice how as ramping up the production of plastic showed a very big decrease in the sperm production of male. While the sperm count is decreasing this must mean that there are lower Testosterone levels in these men. This leads men on this big spiral downhill. Because of this overuse of plastic, it is affecting the quality of men that are here now. With lower testosterone levels men are not the same people their father was or even their grandfather. And they sadly never will be. The lower sperm quantity means that people are having kids less often due to these circumstances. And these are just the effects of BPA on the population. I believe that microplastics are having an even more detrimental effect on us as a population. I believe that these little plastics are getting into our blood stream and killing cells in our body. And that part is a known fact. It is basically a man-made disease that had no intent on being a disease. Microplastics is a relatively new topic of interest that is affecting human health so it will be very interesting to see where this goes in the next couple of years.

Conclusion/what can be done

I believe that a lot can be done. The first thing that I think should be done is to regulate the food industry. I think that most if not all plastic should be converted into non plastic technologies. They are out there the reason they have not been pursued is because they are just expensive and will cut into companies’ profits which is said that they put the health of people under making money. One option is to replace plastic with Glass. Glass is what they used to use before plastic took the scene. And the reason they shifted away from it is because of money issues. Paper based pouches. They are out there you, and this really made me think why on earth are they still making stuff out of plastic when there is safer options out there. My generation really needs to put their foot down and help us get out of destroying our planet to make it a better place for all with healthier people. And I want to be at the head of that. This topic is very important to me, and I take it very seriously.

Essay by: Brett J Delwiche
University of Wisconsin-Stout

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