Microplastics, The Trial of our Oceans
Scientists estimate that in 2050 the quantity of microplastics in our planet will reach one billion tons.
By Claudia Gándara Vázquez
February 23rd, 2022
We all have probably heard about this type of plastic once in our lives, but do we really know what this term means?
Microplastics are small pieces of plastic composed of polymers and additives that can be very harmful to the environment and animal health.
According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European Chemicals Agency, any plastic less than 5 mm in length is considered microplastic. Due to their size, these plastics are almost invisible. However, they are in many of the objects we use every day such as cosmetics or cleaning products. These particles have a very low level of degradability and that is why they are so harmful to our planet.
The production and use of microplastics in the world has increased a lot in recent years to reach more than 320 million tons in 2015 and scientists estimate that the quantity of microplastics in our planet will reach one billion tons in 2050.
According to where they come from, we can classify microplastics into two types: primary microplastics and secondary microplastics.
Primary microplastics are the ones that were purposefully made to be that small size and we can find them in lots of common household products.
Secondary microplastics are particles that come from the degradation of other plastic products. The types of plastics from which secondary microplastics usually come from are polyethylene and polypropylene, among others.
Now that we know what microplastics are, we are going to talk about their effects on our seas and oceans.
Microplastics can be ingested by sea animals that humans consume, so they can end up in humans and be so harmful to us. Plastic also causes lots of damage to animals. Microplastics can poison animals when they ingest them, which can negatively affect human food supply and wipe out lots of marine species. There are reports that claim that more than 260 species have ingested plastic or were trapped in plastic items.
But, what does this mean? How can microplastics affect humans?
Nowadays, we don´t know much about how these particles could affect human beings, and many scientists state that microplastics cannot affect us, but recently research has been published by experts from the Utrecht University Medical Center, that says that microplastics can affect human health. According to the report, the cells of our organism that fought against microplastics die when they come in contact with them.
This is why microplastics are a big issue nowadays, so we need to get solutions to help our oceans to deal with this huge concern. For instance, passing laws to forbid the use of plastic microspheres, reducing the consumption of plastic products, such as plastic bags, unnecessary packages, or raising the price of products with a great amount of plastic.
So, if we want to save our oceans and their marine life, we must take care of them and realize that this is a real problem.