Microplastic contamination problem


One of the major vectors of pollution worldwide is the microplastics. They are also called plastic microspheres and are present in a multitude of hygiene products such as exfoliating creams, toothpastes and soaps. These microplastics come to pollute the environment and cause disastrous consequences. Their accumulation from the oceans began 4 decades ago and they are now found in almost all the world's oceans.

In this article we are going to tell you about the environmental problems that microplastics produce and what solutions we can give you.

What are microplastics

Small size plastics

These microplastics are small particles made of plastic used in a wide variety of cleaning products. They were first invented in the 80s and were used thanks to the exfoliating function. It must be borne in mind that many creams are used to loosen the skin and, for this, the presence of these microplastics can achieve that desired effect. It also has other uses such as giving color or texture to different products.

These microplastics are only 5 millimeters in diameter and can be found in toothpaste, shower gels, bath gels, scrubs, cleaning agents, sunscreens, detergents, synthetic fibers in clothing and even scrubbing products. The presence in all these products and their frequent discharges into the seas and oceans from rivers is what makes it accumulate and, to this day, are ubiquitous in all the world's oceans.

These microplastics can be made of different types of materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene or polystyrene.

Consequences for the environment

Existence of small pieces of plastic

If it were a harmless substance for the environment or living beings, we would not have any problem in its accumulation, both the sea and the common oceans. The problem lies in its small size. Because sewage filtration systems are so small, they cannot completely eliminate them. This is the reason why they end up in rivers and, therefore, in the seas and oceans at the mouth. These microplastics are ingested by birds, fish, and other marine species.

Both them and us, through the food chain, can cause various problems. These microplastics have become a great threat to the food of marine animals including species of birds, turtles, marine mammals and other invertebrates. Being this small size they mistake them for food and They come to cause death due to excess concentration in their body. As expected, these microplastics are not ingested by the digestive system of animals.

Some studies reveal that these microplastics have the ability to absorb pollutants affecting marine fauna. Being present in all the world's oceans, this material can be found even in remote places such as Antarctica. We can also find them in places like marine sediments and even corals. As we know, coral reefs are very important for the maintenance of marine ecosystems around the world. Not only are climate change and rising average ocean temperatures causing its destruction, but also the presence of these pollutants that damage the species associated with this ecosystem.

Microplastics risk to human health

Water contamination

Many are the people who rethink the fact that these pollutants can cause problems in human health. The fact that they are so small raises questions about their health risk. There is a Greenpeace report called "Plastics in Fish and Shellfish" in which data are revealed that these microspheres are being incorporated into the food chain. These plastics have the ability to attract other chemicals and release them, making it a potential toxic bomb.

So far we do not have complete scientific evidence that these microplastics can present a real risk to humans when they pass through the food chain. However, the population is increasingly concerned about the cumulative effect of these substances. A scientific study by Orb Media reveals that 83% of the water samples that have been obtained from taps in a dozen countries is contaminated with these microplastics.

Every year in Europe 8.627 tons of plastic reach the marine environment just from these microplastics from cosmetics. This figure is quite small when compared to the 8 million tons of plastic that enter the ocean each year. For this reason, contamination by these microplastics is called an ecological time bomb. This name comes from the concern for a pollutant that we can barely see with our eyes but that can cause serious damage to fauna and human beings remain to be seen.

Prohibition and alternatives

Faced with such a situation, many countries and people consider the fact of banning these microplastics when making certain products. For example, in the United States the use of these plastic microspheres in products such as soaps, toothpastes and cosmetics is prohibited. The UK has also banned the use of these materials following the discovery that there was high pollution of the River Thames. Other countries such as Denmark and Sweden are in the process of banning them.

However, in the European Union there is no project that is against the use of microplastics for now. Another solution would be to look for some alternatives for natural ones. Instead of using products that have polyethylene, polypropylene or polystyrene, we can use biodegradable products made of cornmeal, jojoba pearls, apricot kernels, allegan berries or natural salts. These products can also be used to generate substances that microplastics need to have the same effect and function.

As you can see, microplastics can be very harmful even if it is a pollutant that, individually, can barely be seen by the human eye. I hope that with this information you can learn more about the problem of Microplastics worldwide.

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