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From Plastics Seas to Plastic Me

Be kind to yourself and the planet on World Health Day: Step away from the plastic!

It was pictures of tiny little plankton with plastic particles inside them which was the catalyst for setting up Turtle Bags 20 years ago.Way back then, early research was just showing us that the plastic in our oceans was moving into the food chain through the tiniest of plastic particles which are taken up by microscopic plankton. Twenty years on, and the plastics agenda has broadened: it’s moved from the planet to the personal. Today, the inevitable has happened and we are learning how the picture has moved from the plastic in the seas to the plastic in our bodies.

Tiny particles have been found everywhere from the deepest place on the planet, the Mariana trench, to the top of Mount Everest. The latest frontier of the plastics is our bodies.

Our bodies are the latest frontier for plastics

In a survey carried out in the Netherlands microplastic particles were detected in 17 of 22 healthy adult volunteers. The findings aren’t entirely surprising: plastics are all around us. Durable, versatile, and cheap to manufacture, they are in our clothes, cosmetics, electronics, tyres and packaging and so many more items of daily use.

How do they get there?

So how do these little particles find their way into our bodies?

Our food….

We all know our wastewater lands up at the sewage treatment works, but how effective they are at distributing plastic is not so obvious.

The highly fertile sewage sludge which the sewage works creates is used as a fabulous soil improver. Around 3.5 million tonnes per annum (or 170,000 truckloads) of biosolids are recycled to agricultural land in the UK

One study looking at sludge from a wastewater treatment plant in south west England found that if all the treated sludge produced there were used to fertilise soils, a volume of microplastic particles equivalent to what is found in more than 20,000 plastic credit cards could potentially be released into the environment each month.

And so, one of the pathways for plastics to travel from the soil to our food is created: and we can follow it through. A recent pilot study commissioned by the plastic soup foundation found microplastics in all blood samples collected from pigs and cows on Dutch farms.

It’s the durability of plastics which has been their strength, but their perseverance means that they have been found in lung tissue, breast milk and blood. We are still so uncertain as to how they affect our bodies, and it is not without risk. A recent article published last week by Anne Pinto -Rodrigues, shows that there could be issues with hormone disruption and foetal development.

For World Health Day we can do our bodies a big favour and embrace life without the plastic stuff.

How can we do this?

As well as the obvious of .....

Dropping the plastic bags,

Avoid personal care products containing micro beads.

Buying clothes made from natural fabrics like cotton linen and hemp, instead of from synthetic materials like acrylic and polyester.

Say no to plastic cutlery: this will inevitably disappear from our lives in October 2023 when there will be a ban on single use plastics, but why wait!

Much of this information is gathered from the Science News article by Environmental Journalist Anne Pinto-Rodriguespublished last week.

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