Allow me to first present statements that are being considered facts today by many scientists:
- We are drinking Plastic Fibers
- We are breathing Plastic Fibers
- We are eating Plastic Fibers
I am not trying to yell the sky is falling, but we have created a monster. For those of us who don’t eat meat or fish, grow some food, and have counter top water distillers, a sense of brief relief may arise. However, this is an ever growing interconnecting issue, that is rapidly becoming serious for the world. Mainly because we do not know what the end results will be for humankind, animals, and nature!
How we are eating plastic:
Our clothes have more synthetic materials today than any other natural material. That evening dress we will wear this New Year’s Eve, the fleece coat we will use when shoveling snow and our exercise clothes for those workouts. Polyester equals plastic. An analysis was done by Tecnon OrbiChem on the data showing chemical use worldwide. Polyester is the world’s mandated fiber since 2007.
We then wash our clothes. Microplastic fibers that can’t be seen, are washed down the drain. A recent study found each washing machine cycle could release 700,000 fibers.
Also don't forget plastic microbeads in facial scrub products! These plastic fibers end up in our waterways, our oceans, because Water Treatment plants are unable to catch all of them. Dr. Alice Wemaere, EPA Research Manager said, “Consumers can help by checking the product labels for cosmetics and cleaners to see if they are certify microplastic free."
Next these plastic fibers absorb things while in the water. Things like: Oil from spilt motor oil, Pesticides from spraying weeds, Drugs from discarded medicine pills, Bacteria from Sewage and Wastewater Treatment plants, Chemicals from just about anything that went down the street’s sewer drain. To summarize in one word… Toxins.
We don’t recycle plastic well and an additional source of plastic for fish to eat also may come from, for example, 38 million pieces of plastic waste that washed up on the sands of an uninhabited South Pacific Island.
If Polyester is the mandated fiber, then the question is… Mandated by who?
Manufacturers, Profits, Consumers? We are all guilty.
How we are breathing plastic:
Studies done in 2015 by SETAC Europe (Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry) told researchers that microplastic was atmospheric and offering substance to the old adage: The sky is falling. A minimum estimated of three tons of plastic fibers were being deposited each year onto the city of Paris. The question now is: By what means are these microplastic fibers getting into the air?
Professor Frank Kelly led research done in London and reported to the 2016 UK Parliamentary Inquiry the following:
“If we breathe them [microplastic] in, they could potentially deliver chemicals to the lower parts of our lungs and maybe even across into our circulation.”
How we are drinking plastic:
Plastic fibers have been found in our tap water around the world and I don’t mean a small sample. Plastic particles are found in 83% of the samples taken. The United States of America leads the way with the highest contamination rate at a staggering 94%. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found plastic fibers in the drinking water of their Headquarters and buildings used by Congress.
India and Lebanon came in second and third with the next highest rates. The UK, Germany and France had a 72% contamination rate. An independent study done in the Republic of Ireland by Dr. Anne Marie Mahon at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology also found microplastic particles in well water and tap water.
“We don’t know what the [health] impact is and for that reason we should follow the precautionary principle and put enough effort into it now, immediately, so we can find out what the real risks are,” said Dr. Mahon.
Another statement made by Dr. Mahon causing consternation was, “If the fibers are there, it is possible that the nanoparticles are there too that we can’t measure. Once they are in the nanometre range they can really penetrate a cell and that means they can penetrate organs, and that would be worrying.”
Compound that statement with microplastics absorbing bacteria found in sewage, because some studies have shown harmful pathogens on microplastic downstream from wastewater treatment plants, now the world's population has a bigger problem.
Therefore if we are drinking plastic polluted water, then so are the animals. We then consume the chickens, cows, turkeys and pigs.
We are our own worst enemy.
We have no idea what the long term results will be for babies, children, and adults, when we consume years of microplastics with toxins. How our organs, muscle tissues, and overall health will be altered is still a quagmire.
I teach Outdoor Education part time at BOCES. I tell my students that everything is connected and there are consequences to all our actions. Our world’s ecosystems are being suffocated by plastic as these fibers become ubiquitous in the world. We are risking adverse consequences, but as I also tell my students, “There is always another way.” The last pull-over shirt I received as a gift, was 70% cotton. Much better than a few years ago, but still not the same as my 100% cotton shirts, T-shirts and jeans.
God’s green earth is becoming a plastic earth. I am sorry to say that I can’t find a Happy New Year in that possible indomitable issue.
Bill Lauto, at GoingTrueGreen.com
International Sustainability and Energy Consultant
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