How to avoid eating microplastics

June 6, 2024

(NewsNation) — From proteins to our bloodstreams, America has a microplastic problem.

Researchers have found that these pollutants can cause health issues and they’ve been linked to several illnesses, including heart disease.

Unfortunately, the source of the microplastics is unclear and they’re nearly impossible to avoid.

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastics the approximate size of a grain of sand or a human hair, which carry a host of potential health risks.

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Since they’re usually from the breakdown of plastics, microplastics may be made of chemicals like BPA and forever chemicals like phthalates, said Tracey Woodruff, PhD, a UC San Francisco obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences professor.

Microplastics can include chemicals that much isn’t known about because the government doesn’t require comprehensive safety testing for chemicals used in plastics and other materials, Woodruff said.

She added that microplastics can disrupt the body’s chemical messengers which control reproduction, growth, and metabolism — increasing the risk for cancer, infertility, and poorer fetal development.

Where are microplastics commonly found?

An Environmental Pollution study reviewed a wide range of meat, fish and vegetarian meat alternatives, finding 88% of them contained some form of microplastics.

Based on annual protein consumption habits of Americans, scientists found that the average American takes in 11,500 microplastics per year — with the highest protein consumers taking in as many as 3.8 million plastic fragments and fibers.

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A study by University of New Mexico researchers found microplastics in the testicular tissue of both humans and dogs, a discovery they say adds to growing concern about how microplastics may impact human reproductive health.

According to the paper published in the journal “Toxicological Sciences,” the research team found 12 types of microplastics in 47 canine and 23 human testes.

Researchers have also found evidence of microplastics in people’s bloodstreams.

How do you limit microplastics dangers?

To avoid microplastics and other toxins in food, Woodruff suggests not microwaving plastic because “heat makes plastic release harmful chemicals like BPA.”

The Commons Earth recommends consuming seafood that’s “sustainably sourced” and has been tested for microplastics and consuming smaller fish, as larger fish tend to accumulate more microplastics. The outlet also suggests finding companies adding recycled ocean waste plastic over using virgin plastic.

Woodruff also recommends using glass or steel water bottles over plastic, purchasing organic foods to reduce exposure to pesticides, and reducing red meat intake.

Additionally, Woodruff suggests using baking soda and water or vinegar and water to clean your home.

“A good recipe is one part vinegar to one part water just don’t mix it with chemical cleaners, like bleach, which can create deadly chlorine gas,” she said.