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Microplastics: What They Are, How They Affect Us, And How to Avoid Them


 Microplastics: What They Are, How They Affect Us, And How to Avoid Them

Microplastics: What They Are, How They Affect Us, And How to Avoid Them

Microplastics are tiny particles found in many products we use daily. Learn about their effects on our bodies and what we can do to avoid them.

What is microplastic?

Microplastics are parts or filaments of polymer-based things going from containers and textures to tires and paints. Plastic particles are released into the air and waterways when synthetic fabrics rip in the washing machine and when automobile tires degrade on the road.

Where Do We Find It?

Microplastic particles are commonly found in water sources, soil, and dust. In fact, some studies suggest that humans are exposed to more than 100 times the average level of microplastics in the environment.

Microplastics in water.

 Microplastics were discovered in 93% of the samples of bottled water from 9 different nations, according to Frontiers in Chemistry research from 2018.

Microplastics in food.

Additionally, microplastics have been found in fish and chicken eggs, and plastic tea bags discharge billions of them into beverages. They can also be found in salt, beer, and tap water.

Additionally, it is possible that humans consume 80 g of microplastics daily through plants (fruits and vegetables), which absorb microplastics from contaminated soil.

It is already widely known that marine species used for human sustenance, such as fish, bivalves, and crabs, contain microplastics.


Even while most plastics continuously break down into microscopic fragments that eventually grow to be nanoplastics with sizes ranging from 1 nm to 1000 nm, it may take decades or even centuries for those fragments to entirely dissolve compared to natural fibers like cotton or linen.

How Do microplastics and nanoplastics Impact Our Health?

Microplastics in lungs (inhalation):

Microplastics are transported by the wind or via air depositions, and they may also be produced by dried sludges, wastewater treatment byproducts, synthetic clothing materials, industrial emissions, road dust, and marine aerosol. Men may develop autoimmune illnesses, cytotoxic and inflammatory consequences, and respiratory distress because of its spread.

Lung cancer

Twelve different types of microplastics were found in 11 out of 13 lung tissue samples taken from individuals undergoing surgery for lung cancer in a 2021 study published in the Journal of Hazardous. The most frequent microplastics discovered were polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET is frequently used to make textiles and beverage bottles, while polypropylene is typically used to make items like potato chip bags and straws.

Respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis

It has been connected to significant exposure to microplastics. Asthma-like immediate bronchial reactions, diffuse interstitial fibrosis, granulomas with fiber inclusions (extrinsic allergic alveolitis, chronic pneumonia), inflammatory and fibrotic changes in the bronchial and peribronchial tissue (chronic bronchitis), and lesions of the interalveolar septa (pneumothorax). All possible responses to inhaled particles depend on the individual's susceptibility and metabolism.

Ingestion of microplastics:

Ulcerative colitis

According to research published in Environmental Science & Technology, patients with inflammatory bowel illness had much more microplastics in their stools than healthy patients. The type of plastic ingested may be a risk indicator, too. There’s evidence that certain plastics, such as polyurethanes, polyacrylonitriles, and epoxy resins, are among the most hazardous polymers to human health.

Microplastics in Human Blood

Microplastics are not only inhaled by us; we are also consuming them. Humans may ingest up to 52 000 microplastic particles annually, according to a 2019 article in Environmental Science & Technology, and this number rises to 121 000 when considering those that are breathed. Additionally, there is a potential for particles to find their way to reach all orangs after passing via the intestines and being absorbed into the bloodstream.

In 17 out of 22 blood samples from healthy donors, researchers discovered polymer particles between 700 nm and 500 000 nm in a study that was published earlier this year in Environment International. PET was detected in 50% of samples, polymerized styrene was found in 36%, and polyethylene was found in 23%.

Microplastics can affect cellular processes and induce oxidative stress, DNA damage, and inflammation, which can become chronic and result in major health issues. They can also attach to and deform the outer membranes of human red blood cells.

Crossing the blood-brain barrier

Microplastics were proved to reach the brain by crossing the blood-brain barrier, this was proved by animal studies in rodents.

Microplastics as a vector for chemicals and pathogens:

Microplastic might go about as a transporter for microorganisms and hazardous chemicals:

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS)

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which free-floating microplastics can adsorb, are significant water contaminants, and there are currently no safe drinking-water thresholds for them.

These substances have been related to various health issues, such as thyroid dysfunction, dyslipidemia, and cancer.

Pathogen carrier:

Microplastics may act as carriers for bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, such as the rotavirus, which can cause diarrhea, especially in young children and infants.

According to a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution, viruses were shown to live longer when linked to synthetic particles that protected them from chlorine, ozone, and UV radiation. Rotavirus was found to bind to microplastics in freshwater for at least 2 days.

What Can You Do About It?

There are several things you can do to reduce your exposure to microplastics. First, try to limit the number of plastic items you consume. Second, wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Third, choose reusable bags when shopping at stores where plastic bags are not provided. Fourth, consider using glass containers instead of plastic bottles. Finally, recycle any plastics you find in the trash.

Demand for action

In a 2013 Nature editorial, it was suggested that plastic garbage be labeled as hazardous waste rather than solid waste. The article, which was co-authored by several top experts on microplastics, stated that " Policies for managing plastic debris are outdated and threaten the health of people and wildlife." Microplastics are a part of the plastic debris mentioned.

The US government has recently lagged in terms of microplastic legislation. Federal legislation to control microplastic waste has slowed down since 2015's ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetics. A bill that was introduced to the House of Representatives back in 2020 with the intention of eradicating microplastics from the environment and halting future trash has been stationary ever since.


Microplastics are found everywhere in the environment, humans are exposed to them through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact, it may be linked to diseases such as lung cancer and ulcerative colitis or may serve as a vector for toxic chemicals and pathogens.


JAMA, 2022