Is Plastic Pollution Destroying Our Health?

Pollution is a terrible problem that plagues our planet and one that Ira Riklis has great concern about. When you think of the pollution associated with plastic, chances are you envision heaps of plastic bags, bottles and other forms of plastics in landfills and in the ocean. Every time you throw away a plastic bag, you know that plastic bag will take hundreds of years to biodegrade. That means that it will sit somewhere on land or make its way to the waterways and eventually the ocean causing harm all along the way. Even though pollution from plastic is a global problem, only about 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled globally. That is a staggering statistic and sheds light on how widespread this problem is.

Microplastics Are Everywhere

It’s a well-known fact that plastic has polluted the oceans and scientists have studied its effects on marine life and ecosystems for years. However, the effects of plastic pollution elsewhere are just beginning to be explored. In recent times, researchers have found microplastics in the soil, bottled water, tap water, beer and even the air. Because these microplastics are everywhere there’s an increased concern about the health risks such pollution poses.

When you drink bottled water, you probably assume that it is safe. But, not so fast. Studies have shown that tiny bits of plastic have been found in bottled water. It is possible that the bottled water you thought you could trust may contain thousands of microplastic fibers. Because these fibers are tiny, they pass through the body to the organs. Although studies on human health are too new to draw any conclusions, what is known is that plastic was never meant to be ingested. It acts like a sponge by soaking up all the chemicals around it that can include pesticides and other toxic substances. Although scientists don’t know the exact effect on human health, all can agree the effects probably are not good.

Where Microplastics Originate

When plastic packaging and other plastic compounds break down, they form microplastics. But, they can also originate from other sources that allow them to find their way into the food we eat and the water we drink. Some common sources of microplastic pollution include:

  • Fertilizers
  • Sewage Sludge

Fertilizers are thought to be one of the leading sources of microplastic pollution. Sewage sludge creates a problem when cosmetics contain microbeads that are essentially microplastics and clothing fibers get washed down the drain. They make their way through the water treatment system and are released back into the environment which means they are all around us.

Plastic Bag Ban

The problem of plastic pollution is so serious that Governor Andrew Cuomo has introduced a bill to outlaw plastic bags by 2019 in New York State. Cuomo wants to take this measure to counteract the blight of plastic bags because of their devastating effects on New York’s streets, water, and natural resources. While it’s unclear if this bill, if passed, would mitigate the plight of the plastic problem, there are steps each individual can take to reduce the amount of pollution caused by plastic. For instance, when you go to the grocery store, you can opt to pack your groceries in boxes or paper bags. An even better option would be to take your groceries home in environmentally-friendly reusable grocery sacks. Each plastic bag you don’t use is another plastic bag that’s kept out of the landfill and one more bag that won’t make its way to the ocean or get broken down into microplastic fibers.

Although more research into how plastic is affecting our health is needed, it is safe to assume that the effects on health are not favorable. Therefore, it is best to reduce the use of plastic and recycle when you can.