Thursday, September 21, 2023

Microplastics, infiltrating the food we eat

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Market Desk (health): Microplastics have infiltrated every part of the planet. They have been found in Antarctic sea within the guts of marine animals inhabiting the deepest ocean trenches and in drinking water around the world. Plastic pollution has been found on beaches of remote, uninhabited islands and it shows up in sea water samples across the planet. One study estimated that there are around 24.4tn fragments in the upper regions of the world’s oceans. 

They are spread widely in soils on land too and can even end up in the food we eat. Unwittingly, we may be consuming tiny fragments of plastic with almost every bite we take.

In 2022, analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that sewage sludge has contaminated almost 20mn acres (80,937sq km) of US cropland, which are commonly found in plastic products and do not break down under environmental conditions.

Sewage sludge is the byproduct left behind after municipal wastewater is cleaned. It is expensive to dispose of and rich in nutrients, sludge is commonly used as organic fertilizer in the US and Europe. In the latter, this is in part due to EU directives promoting a circular waste economy. An estimated 8-10mn tone of sewage sludge is produced in Europe each year and roughly 40% of this is spread on farmland.

Researchers at Philips University Marburg found microplastics up to 90cm deep in the soil surface. These directly contaminate food grains. A 2020 study found microplastics and they are in fruits and vegetables sold in Italian supermarket.

According to Professor Willie of Leiden University in Netherlands, crops can absorb nanoplastic material. However, there is no effect on crop growth. However, more research is needed to know the extent of its effect on human health.

According to experts, the toxic substances contained in the chemical components of plastic can cause various health problems include cancer, heart disease, poor fetal development.

Analysis by researchers at the University of Hull in UK says that if microplastics enter the body in large amounts, it can also damage cells. This can lead to inflammation or allergic reactions later on.

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