What are Microplastics?
Microplastics are traditionally defined as small pieces of plastic debris less than 5 millimeters in size, down to ~1-1000 nanometers, where they are defined as ‘nanoplastic’. Many kinds of plastic disintegrate when they are exposed to heat, mechanical damage, and UV radiation, and thus large pieces of plastic become smaller and smaller.
Where are Microplastics?
We can find microplastics in many environments and settings, both marine and terrestrial. Millions of tons of plastics enter the ocean every year. Plastic is everywhere. It’s in your clothing, tires, utensils, cars, packaging, beauty products (microbeads), and many others. Research has identified plastic fibers in your food and drink too.
How Do Microplastics Affect Me?
This is an emerging area of research; animal studies have shown microplastics to have significant biological effects. Microplastics (0.1 g/mg body weight) can alter the metabolic profile of mice. In crucian carp, small nanoplastics can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause behavioral changes. Many different types of human tissue have the potential to absorb microplastics (kidneys, liver, spleen, and lungs). The effects of microplastic exposure are often tested at concentrations that are much higher than found in nature. There is also great deal of variability in the concentrations reported for drinking water (orders of magnitude).
What Can We Do About Microplastics?
The first step in addressing this issue is raising awareness and our knowledge about the microplastics we are all ingesting. Parverio is meeting both of these needs through our Kickstarter to create a regional microplastic atlas of drinking water. A successful campaign will create both new knowledge for researchers and promotional materials to further spread awareness.
References and Further Reading