Apart from eating the occasional plastic sticker on apples, & chewing plasticine as a toddler (salty waxy chewing gum that mum had to bribe me with smoked mussels to spit out), I can't say plastic has ever been a big part in my diet. Nor is it promoted by dietary guidelines anywhere in the world.
But we may unintentionally be eating plastic (& thus affecting our body's health) via seafood it seems. Like most problems on this planet, it's our own doing.
Here's what happens: plastic litter NOT recycled or disposed of properly ends up in the ocean. Not only can plastic litter entrap turtles & sea lions drowning them, but big plastic items eventually breakdown into small pieces, then into more smaller pieces, & eventually into micro-(teeny tiny)-plastic fragments. Why? Because PLASTIC IS NOT BIODEGRADEABLE. Melt it, reshape it, use it another way, but plastic here today, is really plastic here-to-stay-forever. Enter filter-feeders like molluscs & algae, & gill-breathers like fish. Filter-feeders source nutrients out of the water that passes through their filter-style mouth, while fish filter oxygen from water passing through their gills. Unfortunately for all these creatures, microplastic are being caught in their filter/gills, eventually working their way into the tissue of the creature. These animals end up in the human food supply as shown in this simple diagram by Mercogliano et al 2020 (J. Agric. Food Chem. 2020, 68, 19, 5296–5301).
Researchers from Flinders University, led by Prof Karen Burke da Silva have recently undertaken a first-of-its-kind study along 10 beaches in South Australia. "Their findings have seen broken-down microplastics are now being found in blue mussels and water within the intertidal zone," according to journo Matthew Welch in the Victor Harbor Times newspaper yesterday. Plastic types found in the study have also been found in wild-caught & ocean farmed fish & seafood & include those commonly used in water/drink bottles, chip packets & plastic bags. Check out https://www.sciencehistory.org/science-of-plastics for more plastic information.
"Low to medium levels of microplastics that are less than 5mm in size measured in the common blue mussel, a filter feeder affected by ecosystem conditions, were measured to analyse the main kinds of pollution affecting the environment, & single-use plastic was the main offender," according to Prof. da Silva. Clearly Clean Up Australia day needs to be than just the 1st Sunday of March.
Prevention is always better than cure & Prof da Silva highlights what we need to do to deal with this urgent problem in the article.
But if you'd like more info on the implications of microplastics in the human body & its effect on human health, comment below, & I'll explain what we know from the science to date.
Burke da Silva, Karen and Klein, Janet R. and Beaman, Julian and Kirkbridge, Paul and Patten, Corey, Microplastics in Intertidal Water of South Australia and the Mussel Mytilus Spp.; the Contrasting Effect of Population on Concentration. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3990872 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3990872
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