A study conducted by John Hopkins University in the United States found that a person who eats seafood can consume up to 11,000 particles of microplastics a year. This does not seem like much, especially if we think that our body ends up eliminating it through our intestinal system. However, today we cannot assume that all plastic that goes in, comes out without any effect on our health.
How much do we know about the microplastics absorbed in our organs and how they affect our health?
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about microplastics as it affects marine life in the oceans, but, let's understand what microplastics are and where they come from.
Microplastics are defined as tiny pieces of plastic less than 0.5 centimeters that do not degrade and are easily consumed by organisms such as plankton, fish, turtles and whales.
About 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been generated since the 1950s and only 9% is recycled!
Most of it ends up in the oceans and affects the marine species that humans consume. In 2016, a FAO report found microplastics in 800 species of marine animals.
As if that weren't enough, another study conducted in 2018 by Greenpeace and Incheon National University in South Korea revealed that 90% of the salt produced contains microplastics.
Due to the nature of these particles, it is easy to deduce the toxicity they may have and therefore the problems and organs that may be affected are: the cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, neurological, reproductive and respiratory systems.
In 2016, a study conducted by the Medical University of Vienna and Austria's state environmental agency conducted analyses of feces and found the presence of the following components: propylene, which is found in milk and juice containers, and PET, of which most plastic bottles are made.
Plastics are in our intestines. It’s confirmed.
However, something much more alarming occurs according to Philipp Schwabl, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist at the Medical University of Vienna and the main author of the study: Microplastics can also enter the lymphatic system, the liver and even the blood system.
Science has not yet studied how this would affect human health and what the consequences would be. In other words, the consequences of the physical presence of microplastics in human organs, as well as their toxicity, have not been studied.
For the moment, it is best to reflect on how often we buy or are exposed to food that is contained in some plastic container, or where the fish and seafood that we frequently consume comes from.
To combat this problem, we should try to avoid the consumption of single-use plastics, recycle everything we throw away, and when possible, join volunteer activities in rivers, beaches and oceans to clean them of plastic waste.
Because what is certain is that today, most of us are already eating microplastics without realizing it.
Chevalier, Stéphanie: “¿De dónde proceden los plásticos de los océanos?”, Foro Económico Mundial, 2019. https://es.weforum.org/agenda/2019/11/de-donde-proceden-los-microplasticos-de-los-oceanos/
“¿Cómo nos afectan los microplásticos?” Iberdrola, 2020. https://www.iberdrola.com/medio-ambiente/microplasticos-amenaza-para-la-salud
Criado, Miguel Ángel: “Los microplásticos ya han llegado al intestino humano”, Foro Económico Mundial, 2018. https://es.weforum.org/agenda/2018/10/los-microplasticos-ya-han-llegado-al-intestino-humano-00bf0e0c-a51e-4a90-9116-2bb150865097/
“El plástico y la salud: Los costos ocultos de un planeta plástico”, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), 2019. https://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Plastic-Health-Spanish.pdf