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Microplastics refers to plastic particles that measure less than five millimetres. There are two categories. Primary microplastics are designed for commercial use like cosmetics, and microfibers shed from clothing and textiles like fishing nets. Secondary microplastics are derived from the breakdown of larger plastic items like water bottles.

The problem with microplastics is that they do not readily break down into harmless molecules. Plastics can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose. On beaches, microplastics are visible as tiny multi coloured plastic bits in sand. Eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year.

Microplastics are found in marine organisms from plankton to whales, in commercial seafood, and even in drinking water. To further complicate matters, microplastics in the ocean can bind with other harmful chemicals before being ingested by marine organisms. On average people could be ingesting around 5 grams of plastic every week.

Scientists are uncertain if microplastics are harmful to human health. Microplastics have been detected in drinking water, salt, and other food. So far, no harm has been shown. However, studies found that microplastics disrupt marine life reproductive systems, stunt growth, diminish appetite, cause tissue inflammation and liver damage, and alter feeding behaviour.


A 2017 United Nations resolution discussed microplastics and the need for regulations to reduce this hazard to our oceans, their wildlife, and human health. 5 possible ways to reduce your microplastic footprint:

  1. Filter Your Tap Water
  2. Avoid using single-use plastics
  3. Avoid Beauty Products With Microbeads
  4. Air Dry Your Clothes
    Air drying clothes, or reducing time in the dryer, can help cut back on microplastics produced by clothes washing.
  5. Try To Limit Eating Meat & Fish
  6. Buy clothes made from natural materials
    Seek out brands that use natural materials such as cotton, silk, wool, hemp, and linen.

Any effort you make to help lessen plastic consumption can make a difference.

Content: nationalgeographic.com, WWF, unep.org, bustle.com, globalcitizen.org