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Microplastics - Why They’re Harmful And How To Avoid Them

Microplastics - Why They’re Harmful And How To Avoid Them

By Sophia Power, BA Media, BHScNutMed 

We could be ingesting around 5 grams of plastic every week, according to the World Wildlife Fund

It’s a scary thing to think about, but everyday purchases and choices could make a major difference when it comes to avoiding microplastics in your environment. So, what are the worst sources of microplastic exposure in our everyday environment and what can you do to avoid them? Keep reading to learn how to avoid plastics in your daily life. 

 

How microplastics affect humans   

We’re still learning about this fairly new dilemma, but so far it’s believed that microplastic build-up in the body can damage DNA and lead to chronic inflammation. Long-term inflammation is an underlying cause of major health issues and it’s something that can be largely avoided through a healthy diet.1

 

Certain types of plastic have been strongly linked with some health conditions. Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates are common building blocks of industrial plastics that are known to be ‘endocrine disruptors’ - meaning that they mimic our own naturally produced hormones. The body becomes confused by these changing levels of hormones - for example, BPA commonly binds to oestrogen, androgens and thyroid hormones. These hormones are important in a wide range of body functions and changes can wreak havoc on human health.2

How to avoid microplastics  

Although the world is full of plastics, thankfully, the tide is turning on our use of them. As we slowly but surely move onto more thoughtful consumption - recycling or avoiding plastics altogether - this will reduce the potential for plastics to enter the body. That being said, if you’re wondering how to reduce your exposure and help to remove microplastics from the body, here’s what you need to know:

  • Avoid single-use plastic such as plastic water bottles and takeaway coffee - opt for a BPA-free plastic drink bottle such as this one from Prana ON or a reusable coffee cup by Huskee, made from coffee husks. 
  • Use a water filter at home to filter out microplastics, heavy metals and chlorine. 
  • Sadly, shellfish are one of the highest food sources of microplastics, so either avoid it altogether or look for high-quality, trusted shellfish sources.
  • Avoid plastic packaging and never microwave your food in plastic containers. BPA is one of the most prevalent plastics in food packaging, so avoid it and look for packaging that says BPA-free. 
  • Get down to your local fresh produce market where you can - not only can you avoid unnecessary plastic packaging but you’ll also find produce that is higher quality, fresher and more nutritious. 
  • Think carefully about your beauty products. Clean beauty has never been more popular, or more important! Look to organic skincare and haircare brands for natural, plastic-free and nasty chemical-free products. 
  • If you’re a tea lover, look for brands that use plastic-free tea bags such as Pukka or Love Tea or opt for loose-leaf in a pot. 
  • Support your body’s detox channels so that you’re able to remove toxins effectively. Eating a fibre-rich diet filled with leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruit, chia and flaxseeds ensures toxins, including microplastics, are “picked up” and moved out of the body via the colon. Boosting your antioxidant levels with glutathione and vitamin C also helps protect the body from free radical damage.3

When it comes to health, it helps to keep the focus on what you can control. Look to your own daily habits and choices first - conscious consumerism is one way to have an impact on not just yourself and your family, but your community. The effects of microplastics is a scary but necessary conversation to have in order to start making changes - from how we use plastic now to how we create a plastic-free future. 
 
References: 

  1. Plastic Health Coalition. Microplastics & pathogens. Accessed July 2022 from https://www.plastichealthcoalition.org/microplastics/#:~:text=Based%20on%20these%20type%20of,to%20very%20serious%20health%20problems.
  2. Warne, G.R. & Flaws, J.A. (2018). Bisphenol A and Phthalates: How environmental chemicals are reshaping toxicology. Toxicol Sci, 166(2):246-249. 
  3. Waly, M.I., Al-Attabi, Z. & Guizani, N. (2015). Low nourishment of vitamin C induces glutathione depletion and oxidative stress in healthy young adults. Prev Nutr Food Sci, 20(3):198-203. 

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