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Would You Like Micro-Plastic with Your Fish?

Plastics have become a pivotal part of modern life. The common material is used in packaging, construction, and electronic appliances and it is almost impossible for you to avoid its use on a daily basis. However, the way that we dispose of this plastic is far worse for the environment than many people could ever imagine.

Every year, over 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into oceans across the world. While this may remove it we from our immediate attention, it does not remove it from the environment. Plastic takes between 450 and 1000 years to completely decompose, depending on size and strength. Over time, it simply breaks down into micro-plastics that infect every aspect of the environment and oceanic food chain.

However, what actually are micro-plastics? More importantly - how does their presence in the ocean affect the environment and your health?

What Are Micro-Plastics? 

Simply-put, they are shards of plastic smaller than 5mm in diameter. However, micro-plastics can be organised into two distinct types: primary micro-plastics - created intentionally for use in products - and secondary micro-plastics, created by the gradual breaking down of plastic dumped in the ocean.

Primary micro-plastics are surprisingly omnipresent in the products that you use. Facial creams, face and body scrubs, and whitening toothpaste are all UK products that involve various micro-plastics. A huge number of people who use these products have no idea they contain micro-plastics, or the horrific effect that they can have on their health, we well as on the environment. 

How Do They Affect the Environment?

The real danger of micro-plastics becomes apparent due to the combination of two factors that, individually, would have only a minimal effect: the relatively small size of the material and its high levels of toxicity. As result of the small size, micro-plastics are eaten by over 280 species of marine life.

The large rate of micro-plastic ingestion recorded, combined with the reported high levels of toxicity that are associated with plastic, results in significant negative effects to the food chain and individual species. While these effects have been observed to be varied, and typically tied to the individual species and age, they generally include reduced rates of feeding, growth, and reproduction within affected species.

Obviously this will have negative environmental effects, especially in terms of food chain disruption. However, the effects of micro-plastics are not just limited to the ocean.

How Do They Affect Your Health?

Micro-plastics can also have a significant effect on your own health, especially if you eat a lot of seafood. One study undertaken in early 2017 concluded that approximately 60 pieces of micro-plastic are absorbed into the body by European seafood eaters every year. They believed that this was likely to build up over time, with potentially significant negative effects to your health.

Symptoms generally associated with ingestion of toxic plastic include severe abdominal pain, hypotension, vision loss, difficulty breathing, and necrosis in extreme situations. While this would obviously be a worst-case scenario, it is certainly cause for concern.

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Written by Thomas Evans for Grace & Green 

Edited by Skye Rytenskild 

All Images Free for Distribution Via Creative Commons Licensing

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