By Bharati Kumari
In a recent tweet from Milind Usha Soman, he stated, ” It is not microorganisms, but microplastics that will end the human race”.
Microplastics are small plastic particles that pollute our seas and oceans. Their name is given by their small size, as their diameter measures between 330 micrometres and 5 millimetres. The presence of microplastics in oceans is caused by the industrial production of non-recyclable plastic.
Environmental contamination by microplastics is now considered a budding risk to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Agricultural land is recognized as a major sink of microplastics, but the impacts of microplastics above and below ground on the soil ecosystem remains largely unexplored.
The study, published this month in the journal Environment International, In Italy, four healthy women who had normal pregnancies and births, were found with microplastics in their placentas. Microplastics were detected on both the foetal and maternal sides of the placenta and in the membrane within which the foetus develops.
Preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction may end the pregnancy if microplastics are found in a placenta. The placenta plays a major role in the development of the fetus, supplying oxygen and nutrition, as well as removing waste products.
Microplastics in the drinking water and the respiring air can also hit humans directly. Humans often inhale microfibers as they fall from the sky. Small airborne particles are known to a cottage deep in the lungs where they can cause various diseases, including cancer. According to various studies, factory workers who handle nylon and polyester have shown evidence of lung irritation and reduced capacity (although not cancer), but they are exposed to much higher levels than the average person.
Ingested microplastic particles can physically damage organs and leach hazardous chemicals—from the hormone-disrupting bisphenol A (BPA) to pesticides—that can compromise immune function and stymie growth and reproduction. Both microplastics and these chemicals may accumulate up the food chain, potentially impacting whole ecosystems, including the health of soils in which the crops are usually cultivated.
The sole existence of microplastics in fish, earthworms and other species is alarming, but the real harm is done if microplastics loiter—especially if they move out of the gut and into the bloodstream and other organs. Microplastics may threaten people more directly, if particles are small enough, they might migrate through the body and potentially accumulate in places like the bloodstream.
With many pollutants, there is a borderline across which microplastics become toxic to humans or other species. By just knowing and trying to understand what that borderline is one can easily prevent the impact of microplastics.
The analysis, prevention, and removal of microplastics pollution can be brought into action only when people start implementing possible measures and initiatives and control the use of plastics in the daily schedule.
Currently, in India, no manufacturer or vendor use a plastic bag below 50 microns as thinner bags are non-disposable. The usage of plastic bags is still high as the ban is not implemented on all plastic bags. National Green Tribunal in Delhi introduced a ban on disposable plastic like cutlery, bags and other plastic items amid concern over India’s growing waste.
India has pledged to ban all single-use plastics by 2022. The government has announced a number of steps to phase out single-use plastics with the eventual goal of stopping all usage to reduce the country’s plastic footprint.