8 May 2023
Why Microplastics are of Concern
Dr. Zorawar Singh
Plastics' extensive usage and abuse have resulted in major environmental degradation concerns that must be addressed immediately. One of the most frequent forms of marine trash found in our seas and lakes is plastic. Plastic trash may be of any size or shape. Microplastics are plastic particles that are fewer than five millimetres in length. These minute fragments might take decades or more to disintegrate completely. As a result, it is critical to monitor plastic consumption and disposal.
Microplastics are microscopic plastic particles that are produced as a result of commercial product development as well as the breakdown of bigger plastics. Microplastics, as a contaminant, can be hazardous to both human and animal health. These can be primary or secondary microplastics. Primary microplastics are defined as any plastic pieces or particles that are 5.0 mm or smaller before entering the environment. These include clothing microfibers, microbeads, and plastic pellets (sometimes known as nurdles). Secondary microplastics are formed when bigger plastic goods degrade (break down) in the environment due to natural weathering processes.
Microplastics have a high possibility of ingestion, assimilation into, and accumulation in the bodies and tissues of many species since plastics disintegrate slowly (typically over hundreds to thousands of years). Toxic chemicals from the ocean and runoff can potentially biomagnify their way up the food chain. Microplastics have been shown in terrestrial environments to impair soil ecosystem viability and earthworm weight. The cycle and transportation of microplastics in the environment are not fully understood, although study into the subject is now happening. Deep layer ocean sediment investigations in China reveal the presence of plastics in deposition layers that predate the creation of plastics, implying that microplastics in surface sample ocean surveys are likely underestimated.
Thus, microplastics pose a serious health threat that is of real concern to us and should be addressed amicably.
Photo Courtesy: Bollendorff S - Tara Expeditions Foundation (Surfrider Foundation, 2020)