What are MPs? They are a plastic particle less than 5mm in diameter and, as you have probably guessed already, are becoming increasingly well known as another man-made environmental problem.
There are two main sources of MPs in the environment:
1. From consumer products such as toothpaste, skincare products, and facial cleansers.
2. The decomposition of large plastics in the environment through physical, chemical or biological processes.
Most MP’s end up in our waterways unfortunately and have been found in marine, river, sediment and shorelines globally L. MPs can block light from reaching ocean wildlife such as plankton which alters their ability to provide food and oxygen to marine life. MPs also get intertwined with microalgae and therefore get eaten by our ocean wildlife and then we, of course, eat this wildlife.
Studies have shown that the ingestion of MPs by our wildlife induces changes including mortality, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, behavioural changes, neurotoxicity and even liver damage. So far there is not a lot of research on the effects of MPs in mammals and the consequences have not been fully uncovered. Studies looking at the consumption of MPs in human consumption have detected MP’s in foods such as seafood, sugar, beer (oh no!) and tap water.
Research is starting to look at the effects of the gut microbiota and the effects that MPs may have on the immune system. This is because our gut contains the majority of our immune cells and the way our gut microbiota communicates with our immune system may be affected by MPs. Check out the paper below if you want to read more and please feel free to add more here if you like.
There are so many things we can do to look after the world we live in, reducing plastics is just one.
Lu, L., Luo, T., Zhao, Y., Cai, C., Fu, Z., & Jin, Y. (2019). Interaction between microplastics and microorganism as well as gut microbiota: A consideration on environmental animal and human health. Science of The Total Environment, 667, 94-100. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.02.380