We are all aware of climate control and the use of plastics. And with more and more data available it is easy to see that we are all being exposed to an increasing amount of microplastics.
So does this really affect our health?
Well at this moment in time there isn’t any conclusive data to show any possible health risks.
Microplastics are small particles of plastics that are smaller than five microns. They are derived from the destruction of larger plastic parts, but can also be manufactured directly, for example in the form of exfoliating cosmetics. It is used to control the thickness of a product or to improve its texture.
According to research, these microplastics are present in our food chain. This is because once they are released into the environment they can be easily ingested by livestock, poultry and fish.
Microplastic particles have also been discovered in drinking water, whether it be bottled or not. This has been proven by investigations carried out on volunteers, where plastic particles were found in their faeces.
Are they a danger to our bodies?
The presence of microplastics in our environment and in our bodies has been proven, with the European Food Safety Agency or EFSA defining microplastics as being an “emerging potential risk”.
The actual truth is that for now, there is no data on how any of these elements can actually be absorbed by the body and what the effect of these by-products are on respiratory, intestinal or digestive function.
It has also not been established as to what extent they accumulate in the tissues or if there is, in fact, a safe level above which is the time we should start worrying. At this moment in time, it is estimated that microplastics that are greater than 150 microns are not usually absorbed by the body, while smaller particles do so, but in very small quantities.
The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that this is an issue that does need to be studied in more depth and that it is necessary to investigate not only the presence of microplastics in the environment around us, but also the water we drink and the food that we eat.
The institution also believes that companies that supply and manage drinking water, should prioritize the elimination of pathogenic microbes and chemicals that are dangerous to people's health, causing fatal diarrhoea diseases.
According to the WHO, the impact of plastic on the environment has gone beyond discussion and it has asked governments around the world, to initiate plans to reduce pollution caused by this material.
At the beginning of the year, the European Chemicals Agency proposed to restrict the use of deliberately added microplastics in products used for both industrial and daily use. This included items like detergents, cosmetics and agricultural products.
Although they insist that the possible effects these materials may have on human health are not yet well known, it does suggest that in view of the data that has already been shared, it would be best to minimize the number of plastic particles that come into contact with the body in a fragmented way. This can easily be done by not adding them to everyday products.
Microplastics have been found in several sea salt samples from different countries, indicating that sea products are contaminated past repair, by microplastics.
As well as contaminated sea salts, it has been discovered that the Mediterranean coastal waters are also suffering from contamination. A study by experts Miquel Canals, William P. de Haan, and Anna Sànchez-Vidal, from the Consolidated Research Group on Marine Geosciences of the Faculty of Earth Sciences of the University of Barcelona, was published by the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin. It stated that Polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene are the most abundant microplastics in the Mediterranean coastal waters
The study describes the presence of different types of microplastics being found in the peninsular coastal Mediterranean, in particular around the coasts of Catalonia and the regions of Murcia and Almeria in Spain. According to the results, other types of plastics found were nylon polymers, polyurethane (PUR), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and fluorocarbon polymer.
To date, there is no Spanish or European legislation that regulates the presence of microplastics or nanoplastics (which are even smaller), in food, although there are different systems available to detect and evaluate it in the food chain.
The Spanish health authorities have however announced that once the investigation stage is over and more solid conclusions have been reached, they will then put in place all the risk management measures that are necessary to rule out any risk to the health of all consumers.
August 12, 2021