How To Reduce Your Exposure to Microplastics

How To Reduce Your Exposure to Microplastics

Plastics are all around us, and they’re so durable that nothing in nature can break down the chemical bonds that hold them together. As a result, every plastic item that doesn’t get recycled breaks into smaller and smaller pieces over time. When these pieces get to a size of 0.2 inches or less in length, they are called microplastics.

Microplastics are found nearly everywhere on our planet: in our oceans, freshwater drinking supplies, food supplies and even our air. They can absorb and carry a number of contaminants, including trace metals and some potentially harmful organic chemicals. Many microplastics also contain harmful additives such as BPA and phthalates, which can interfere with fetal development and cause hormone-related cancers.

However, scientists still have yet to determine how harmful microplastics may be to humans. Nevertheless, tiny bits of plastic accumulating in the vital organs of our bodies is almost certainly not a good thing.

Here are some ways you can cut down on your own exposure to microplastics in your daily routine, while also helping to keep them from entering the environment.

How Can I Avoid Microplastics?

It all begins by identifying how you might be ingesting plastic and then lowering this exposure. It will likely result in you using less plastic, which can also have a positive environmental impact.

Refrain From Microwaving Food in Plastic Containers

The BPA and phthalates added to plastics are more likely to contaminate food when they are heated. This includes plastic takeout boxes, lids, Tupperware, and pre-made, frozen meals that get microwaved in the package. Microwave your food using glass or ceramic containers and dishes instead. Also, avoid washing plastic containers in the dishwasher, as the heated water degrades the plastic, resulting in the release of microplastics.

Avoid Using Disposable Paper Cups

Just like heated foods in a plastic takeout containers, hot liquids in disposable paper cups release microplastics. The lining in most paper cups is made with HDPE, which is considered a “safe” plastic but has been shown to leak estrogenic chemicals and even heavy metals. Consider bringing your own reusable stainless steel or glass travel mug to your favorite coffee shop. Many cafes offer discounts to customers who bring in travel mugs.

Avoid Other Single-Use Plastic Products

Over time, nearly all plastics eventually break down into microplastics. As a result, cutting down on any plastic you use in your life can decrease your microplastics footprint. For example, in addition to using reusable water bottles and travel mugs for hot drinks, you can use tote bags for groceries and purchase multi-use straws. Also, when possible, shop locally rather than through delivery services such as Amazon that use large amounts of plastics in their packaging operations.

Limit Your Consumption of Seafood

Microplastics in the ocean make their way into many aquatic species, including commercially harvested fish. Evidence shows that microplastics and nanoplastics (plastics that are even smaller than microplastics) can move from the stomachs of fish into their muscle tissue, which is what people typically consume.

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