Plastic is nearly impossible to avoid. From brush to a water bottle, we use plastic in our every single action these days. Yet what many folks don’t realize is that we do more than simply use plastic. We’re also imbibing it. Food packaging items and polyethylene bags are the most common forms of plastics, but they are just visible plastic contaminants. Big plastics can gradually fragment into tiny particles, known as microplastics. When you take a piece of food or even get a drink of water, you’re definitely taking small plastic particles along with it. Such ubiquitous bits are known as micro-plastics.
We all are aware of problems related to plastic that they are non-biodegradable, pollutes soil and water, and are the cause of millions of animal’s death. Now in the list of these entire problems contamination of the food web has been added recently. Since the microplastic study is so recent, there still isn’t enough evidence to know precisely how it impacts human health but obviously, there can’t be “no effect”.
How Do Microplastics Get into Food Systems?
The world has a problem with plastic. It is a commonly publicized environmental issue, but its effect on the food industry has been relatively under-reported. It is estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean annually, impacting both the food chain and the water supply. Microplastics are usually less than 5 mm in diameter, which ensures that their presence in commodities can effectively be undetected without routine sampling.
Microplastics are confirmed to be found in numerous food items, including fish, as well as bottled water. Besides, microplastics can also lead to the inclusion of other chemicals in food. These particles can also be attracted to persistent organic compounds and other contaminants in water.
When they have been eaten by plankton, these pollutants are transferred across the food chain to small fish and finally to humans. Although their effect on human health is currently under discussion, high volumes of microplastics have been shown to cause cancer in rats.
Now, what is present case scenario?
There is currently no global regulatory mandate to improve human food protection against plastic pollution due to lack of qualitative and quantitative evidence on the amounts of microplastics in different foods, their adverse effects on human health, and lack of appropriate and systematic prevention measures to manage microplastic pollution. Baby steps are being taken to mitigate the microplastic contamination of the ecosystem.
In 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Microbeads-Free Waters Act banning microbeads from rinsing cosmetics. To minimize microplastic pollution of the environment, multinational corporations such as Johnson & Johnson and Unilever have made a promise that their products will be plastic-free in the next five years and that they will use natural alternatives instead. Other cosmetic firms have already come forward to phase out microplastics.
The most sensible solution is to minimize the issue at its heart, that is, to minimize the use of plastics in our everyday lives. Collectively, this would entail the participation of the community in which we work, the businesses manufacturing plastics, and the regulators. We should act urgently to secure our food chain.