Don Wyeth


3 min.
April 20, 2021

As concern for worldwide pollution becomes more focused, the spotlight is being shown on microplastic contamination in our environment. “Microplastics are created by the weathering and breakdown of plastic objects, car tires, clothing, paint coatings, and leakage of preproduction pellets and powders. …[bacterial] biofilms growing on microplastics may be a source of harmful microorganisms.”  science.sciencemag.org.

Microplastics are very small particles measuring between <5 mm to <1 µm. For this reason, since these particles are showing up everywhere, there is a mounting concern about the potential health impacts on humans and the biosphere in general. 

The chemicals found in these plastics are being linked to a number of health issues including organ failures, obesity, developmental delays in children, and various reproductive issues. Environmentally microplastics also have deleterious effects on a number of marine organisms including zooplankton, fish, seabirds, sea turtles, crustaceans and mammals. hilarispublisher.com. This kind of contamination is especially toxic to algae. In an article published in Discover Magazine, the largest sources of human exposure listed are airborne dust, tap and bottled water, and seafood.

So, what is the plan of action for ameliorating this problem? Beach cleanups is the first to consider. This is something that everyone can volunteer to do. Whether you live near the ocean, a river, or a lake; picking up discarded plastic articles takes them out of the cycle of becoming microplastic particles. Cleanup of the ocean is also a target. “…the Ocean Cleanup Project is the best way … to clean up existing microplastic as well as reducing further microplastic by removing bigger pieces that will break down into smaller and smaller pieces over time.laquilaactive.com. There is also legislative action that could be taken both nationally and internationally. “… the entire EU parliament has recently and overwhelmingly voted to ban single use plastic.”

On the scientific front “…[researchers] have designed reusable nano-sized reactors — called nanocoils — that can trigger microplastic breakdown.” pbs.org The major target of this technology is in the treatment of wastewater. If successful, these nanocoils would be taking up these nano particles before they get released into the environment. There is also research being done in which plastic nano particles are digested into a form that can be used as a carbon-based food for plant-based life forms. Considering the amount of plastic in our lives it seems prudent to act decisively to curb this problem.

This article was orginally reported by
Don Wyeth

Passionate and intelligent columnist from Madison, WI.