High micro-plastic contamination, demands your attention!

Soniya Sane

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Do not ask for plastic bags!”  frequently  found instruction on the attention boards  of many shops in Pune after plastic ban by the government in 2017. Punekars are known for their straight forward attitude, always reflected through the instructions written on boards in front of shops, buildings, etc…( in Marathi called “Puneri patya”.)

Many people were upset with this idea of replacing plastic with paper, cotton, metals, etc..specially when it comes to the use of “bags”. For food, it was easy earlier to pack in plastic bags or containers, than using paper or metal containers (Dabba / tiffin). The use of “straw” was replaced by wooden spoons at restaurants or cafes.
Many people thought, why government hates plastic so much???? making it “inconvenient for the public”. This was a common reaction from people.
Indeed the rules were set by the government with a perfect vision.
As we all know, the use of plastic is anyway not good for humans. A recent study, says that there is a possibility that humans might be consuming “micro-plastic particles” from 39000 to 52000 per year through diet, inhaled particle count is around 74000.
So now, what’s micro-plastic??? The word is certainly suggesting something about our greatest enemy of 21st century “plastic”. A micro-plastic particle is a smaller particle of plastic less than 5 millimeters, which can be seen only using a microscope.
Ok, but now we already have the rules against the “use of plastic”. In spite of that, we are not implementing it up to the mark. Because we think that if a handful of people are going to ban plastic, it’s not going to make any difference at a global level.
To some extent it is true, but at least we can make a difference for ourselves and people in our surroundings, also our family.

What happens when we consume micro-plastic particles??

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Researchers found that:

  • Toxic and cancer-causing chemicals are present in micro-plastic.
  • It can act as a “vector” for pathogens and heavy metals, causing various infections and illnesses.
  •  Found in aquatic life- seafood and fishes.
  •  It can cause blockages- if an individual consumes micro-plastic particles smaller in size, that pass through the digestive system and thrown out ultimately may not be harmful. But in wildlife, it is observed that if those particles are greater in size up to such an extent that it can block or choke the system somewhere in the stomach or intestine, it can be fatal.
  •  Micro-plastic consumption can disturb digestive and hormonal systems in humans.
  •  Salt samples in Britain from various salt brands, 90% were contaminated by micro-plastics.

Be Careful about “water”
Water is our basic need, and it contributes to around 60 to 70% body weight of humans. So what we are consuming more is water, which is stored in plastic water bottles for convenience. Researchers found that in random samples of bottled water of varies brands, average plastic concentration was 325 micro-plastic particles per liter of water. So, the toxins from plastic are more in bottled water in plastic containers.
Using a glass bottle is not so convenient although, it can prevent us from “micro-plastic particle” consumption.
Better options are using stainless steel or metals like copper etc.. can certainly solve this problem.

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Be careful about the food:
A study suggests that around 15% of calories are from the pollutant that is “micro-plastic” consumed by humans.
Foods that are mainly at risk are seafood options.

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Tips for reducing the risk of micro-plastic consumption through food–

  • Avoid using plastic containers mostly used in microwaves. Replace them with Glass or ceramic containers. But its even better, to heat it in stainless steel vessel using a gas or stove, in a traditional way.
  • Fast foods- make sure it is not microwaved for more number of times and also there is no use of plastic for packaging or wrapping food (eg- sandwiches, burgers, cakes, chips, etc..). Instead, a paper or aluminum foil can be used.
  •  Prefer fresh foods- freshly cooked home foods using lots of veggies and also fruits.
  •  Use paper or cotton bags while buying groceries.

Hence, avoiding use of plastics permanently can really help us to control micro-plastic contamination, which will ultimately reduce our consumption, giving us a much better and healthy life!

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