How to Minimize Your Exposure to Microplastics

Matthew Campen, a toxicologist at the University of New Mexico, wasn’t surprised when his team discovered microplastics in human testicles during a new study. The tiny particles had previously been found in breast milk, lungs and blood. At this point, Dr. Campen said, he expects to find them in all parts of the body.

The particles are so small that it is easy to ingest or inhale them. Scientists still don’t know exactly how this might affect human health, but some early research is concerning: A 2021 study found that patients with inflammatory bowel disease had more microplastics in their stool than those with inflammatory bowel disease. healthy subjects, while another recent paper reported that people with inflammatory bowel disease had more microplastics in their stool than healthy subjects. with microplastics in their blood vessels had an increased risk of heart complications.

We cannot directly control most of the microplastics we are exposed to: materials used in car tires, food manufacturing, paint, and many other products can all create plastic particles. But if you’re worried about microplastics, there are simple steps you can take to somewhat minimize your exposure, experts say.

“You won’t get to zero, but you can reduce your levels,” said Tracey Woodruff, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies how chemicals affect health.

Microplastics are produced when plastic items break down or are intentionally added to certain products, such as microbeads in body scrubs. When they enter water and soil, microplastics enter the food chain.

There are several ways to reduce your exposure through diet, including avoiding highly processed meals. A study of 16 types of protein found that while each contained microplastics, highly processed products like chicken nuggets had the most per gram of meat. The researchers said this could be because highly processed foods come into more contact with plastic food production equipment.

“The less processing, the less plastic,” said Christy Tyler, a professor of environmental sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.

Although plastic packaging extends shelf life and acts as a barrier against contamination, it can also generate small amounts of microplastics that can be released into your food.

More research is needed to find out whether washing food can reduce these microplastics. But Dr. Woodruff said she gradually replaced her plastic containers with glass ones. Replacing plastic cutting boards with wooden ones could also reduce your exposure.

Heat, especially from dishwashers and microwaves, can also cause plastic products to break down.

In a 2020 study, researchers prepared baby formula in baby bottles made of polypropylene, a type of soft plastic, and found that the bottles released microplastics when heated. As water temperature increases, the concentration of microplastics also increases. The study authors recommend preparing the powder formula in a glass container and allowing it to cool before transferring it to a bottle. Likewise, research has suggested that the hot water you use to brew tea could release particles from plastic tea bags; Experts recommend using paper tea bags or loose leaf tea instead.

Water treatment plants can remove some, but not all, of the microplastics found in tap water. Research suggests that microplastic levels are generally higher in bottled water than in tap water. This contamination can result in part from the bottling process, the plastic bottles themselves, and even the opening and closing of the cap.

Dr. Woodruff said she would use a reusable water bottle to avoid this additional exposure. There are also home water filters certified to reduce microplastics.

Plastic is often used to make clothing, bedding and furniture. Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon can be worn down by friction, heat, lighting and general wear and tear, causing them to shed microplastic fibers. Once inhaled, these microplastics can travel through the body, entering organs and the bloodstream.

Some experts recommend keeping plastic items, like a sofa covered in polypropylene fabric, out of direct sunlight or choosing options that aren’t plastic.

Vacuuming can also make a difference. Scientists have found that frequent vacuuming can reduce levels of microplastics in household dust. Dr. Tyler recommended using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter, which can suck up some microplastics. She said using a damp cloth instead of a duster could also help prevent the spread of microplastics indoors.

Laundry is another factor to consider. It is estimated that 60% of the materials used to make clothing are plastic-based. Washing can result in the loss of tiny plastic fibers from these clothes which can pass through sewage treatment plants, be discharged into rivers and the ocean, and end up in drinking water. Plastic particles shed from clothing can also end up in your lint trap and be inhaled when you clean it, Dr. Tyler said.

You can try to capture microplastics with a laundry bag, ball, or special filter that attaches to your washing machine, but there is no conclusive evidence that they work. Experts said other common-sense approaches, like doing laundry less often, washing full loads and drying on a clothesline, could also help minimize the shedding of microplastics from your clothes.

Experts said these steps could help you limit your exposure to microplastics, but only to a certain extent. And Dr Tyler acknowledged that it might be difficult for people to completely eliminate plastic, especially those who buy synthetic clothing and highly processed foods, because they are more affordable. That’s why researchers are working to understand which plastics might be most harmful to human health.

“We have the ability to make the right choices, but not everyone has that much power,” Dr. Tyler said. “Part of it is being smart about what you have control over.”

News Source :
Gn Health

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