Microplastics are defined as pieces of plastic that are less than five millimeters in length, most commonly found in plastic drinking supplies, bottled water, as well as lakes, rivers, oceans, and even us. Obviously the thought of having any amount of plastic inside of us, animals, our environment, etc. is unsettling and worrisome, however, these microplastics don’t pose a health risk, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
It’s important to note that these findings are based on very limited findings, and the reality is we don’t know a lot of information about these microplastics. From what the WHO has gathered, these plastics pass through our bodies without being absorbed at all, but they want to emphasize how little information they’re actually working with in order for the general public to proceed with more caution when it comes to their plastic use.
“Although the available evidence suggests the health risks associated with ingesting microplastics, and the chemicals associated with them, are minimal, the studies so far contain significant data gaps, which need to be corrected in future research” according to the WHO’s Microplastic report’s co-author Jennifer de France.
There is a major pressure and sense of urgency from the scientists and researchers working at the WHO to find out more information about these particles, since they seem to be everywhere.
“Some studies suggest that bottled water contains more microplastics than tap water, but it is not clear why. It could be contaminated source water, but it could also be the plastic polymers used to make the bottles and bottle caps” says Dr Bruce Gordon in an interview with the BBC.
In the upcoming years, the WHO’s goal is to gather much more information about what this “total environmental exposure” of microplastic means for our health. Until then, the WHO recommends that individuals reduce their plastic use as much as possible, especially single-use plastic products that cause the most waste.
There are multiple easy solutions to reduce your households single-use plastic waste, and a lot of them will actually end up saving you money in the long run, as well as the environment.
- Reduce your grocery store plastic bag collection. It’s no surprise that the plastic bags we get from convenience stores cause a massive amount of plastic waste. Reusable cloth bags can be bought at most chain grocery stores, such as Stop And Shop or King Kullen, and many big chain grocery stores also offer discounts for customers who bring their own bags! For smaller hauls, bring your purse, satchel, fanny pack, backpack, etc. so you can easily just put your shampoo or toothpaste or whatever in your own bag for convenience! Little changes in routine like this make all the difference on a larger scale, especially when these environmentally conscious ways of living are more widely accepted.
- Say goodbye to single use plastic water bottles!!!! Plastic water bottles are the most wasteful plastic product that almost everyone around the world uses. For reference, in England, 35 million water bottles are used every day, but only about half of them are properly recycled. The other half ends up in landfills to attempt to decompose, but will most likely just end up putting more microplastics into the environment, and those stats are for England alone! If that fact alone doesn’t make you want to purchase a reusable one how about the particles of microplastic that scientists know almost nothing about floating around in there? Either way, there are plenty of reusable options that are very affordable. You could even go to the local Dollar Store and they’re bound to have a bunch of options!
- Your dental health is very important, why not make your teeth cleaning routine a little more green? Instead of wasteful plastic toothbrushes, that will also end up in landfills thus further saturating the environment with microplastics, try a biodegradable wooden option! Yes, Amazon and other websites alike, have multiple wooden toothbrush options. These toothbrushes are not only biodegradable, but super sturdy, in fact you only have to replace them twice a year! A pack of eight on Amazon is ten dollars, that equates to spending about $2 a year on your toothbrushes. In addition websites and pharmacies are beginning to sell toothpaste in glass jars! This way, after you’re done you can either recycle the glass, which wont contribute any microplastics, or even reuse the jar!
- Make glass Tupperware your new best friend. Everyday millions of people pack their lunches for themselves, their kids, their spouses, and most of them are likely using plastic sandwich/Ziploc bags that will end up in the garbage. The alternative? Order some glass Tupperware online. Not only does glass guarantee that you don’t have to worry about microplastics, but it’s easy to clean out, and you can buy bundles of multiple sizes for cheap at places such as Target, Walmart, even your local grocery store!
- The last recommendation could be a little tough and surprising, especially for any individual who wears make up on a daily basis. Face Wipes and make-up remover wipes actually contain plastic in them, and 93% of blocked sewage pipes in the world are caused by wet wipes that are thrown away after one use. Instead, pick up a pack of reusable soft wash clothes from your local pharmacy, or online, that you will specifically be using for your face. In order to remove your makeup you can use any toner, facial cleanser, face-safe soap, etc. and apply it directly onto a wet washcloth and boom! Your face will be feeling fresh, and the planet will as well.
While microplastics may not be posing any threat for us right now, that doesn’t mean we can guarantee it won’t in the future. Microplastics have already been known to be killing many fish and other ocean animals that are ingesting microplastics, or just the regular plastic that ends up in the water due to improper recycling. Either way, making the choice to use a wood toothbrush or your purse as a grocery bag can reduce whatever the unknown future risk of having microplastic in our natural world is.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.