The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released a new study that has found that microplastics are in the air. And they are being carried by the wind and spreading around the world.
Unfortunately, plastic does not decompose in the wild. Instead, plastic will break down over a long period of time and break into smaller pieces of plastic. And eventually, it will reach a size small enough to be labeled as a microplastic.
For the most part, these small bits of plastic are not visible to the human eye and can easily be ingested by humans and animals alike.
How Do Microplastics Get into the Air?
Microplastics get into the air through a variety of ways.
In the United States, the most common way is via road traffic. Or more specifically, when cars run over plastics in the road. Those plastic particles end up in the air and get spread around. They even mix with harmful toxins found in car exhausts.
And let’s not forget the ocean. As the plastic objects within the ocean break up over the years, the microplastics make their way to the surface of the water. The microplastic is then put into the air as a result of the waves knocking them up.
And the wind does the rest. But how long can they remain in the air?
Researchers found that they can remain in our atmosphere for up to 6.5 days. This is enough time for them to be transported between continents. Thus, many of the microplastic you breathe in may not be from your own country.
How Do Microplastics Affect Animals and Humans?
Animals do not know what plastics are, thus, they end up eating a lot of what they find in their environment. This problem is very bad in ocean ecosystems. And this brings many health problems for these creatures.
For starters, their stomachs cannot break down the plastic they ingest. As a result, the fish believes that it is full and does not look for new food. This can lead to the fish literally starving itself.
And this problem is only becoming more common. After all, nearly 50% of fish have microplastics in them.
Fish are one of the most common food sources for both wild animals and humans alike. And yup, those microplastics are being ingested by both. Luckily the amount of plastics absorbed by eating these fish is extremely small, especially if they have been properly cleaned.
But what is the affect on humans you ask?
In reality, we still don’t know. Most research has found that humans are exposing themselves to microplastics on a daily basis. And as we ingest them, it also exposes us to the harmful chemicals within the plastic.
Yet, so far, the impact of it is still unknown.
More Research Is Needed
One of the big takeaways from the report is just how little we know about microplastics. Their impact on our health and on the environment is still largely unknown. However, they are traveling by land, water, and now air.
If the current trends continue, our exposure to microplastics will only increase in the future.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.