Tiny plastic particles have been spreading all over the world. Microplastics have already been found in drinking water, in the air as well as inside the human placenta.
Microplastics have become the largest threat to human beings and nature that requires immediate and powerful control measures. Researchers are finding the presence of small plastic pieces everywhere across the world.
So far, microplastics are found in air, rain, inside fishes, fruits, vegetables as well as the Arctic and Antarctica. New research indicates microplastics weighing 136,000 tons being ejected into the oceans each year and released into the air breathed in by humans.
All types of plastic waste, irrespective of their size, are harmful to the environment but tiny plastic particles have a special detrimental impact. This is mainly due to their minute size that is almost 150 times minor in size than the human hair. This makes it easier to invade the food chain and eventually enter the human body and fishes. Although WHO (World Health Organization) informed ingesting microplastics will not threaten human health, it has been strongly argued otherwise.
Read Airborne Microplastics Increasing Rapidly; Raises Concerns Over Human Health Impact
Scientific Study On Microplastics
Dr. Douglas Rader, head of oceans scientist of Environmental Defence, pointed out that microplastics have taken a worrisome position in recent years. He stated that tiny plastic pieces have traces of chemicals that might disrupt hormonal and reproductive processes as well as cause cancer.
Nonetheless, there is some optimistic news as microplastic extraction innovations are being made.
Fionn Ferreira, the Irish inventor, has successfully managed to remove 88% plastic particles from water. He clumped them together in compounds which ensures filtering or magnetizing it out. He made a homemade ferrofluid which is a mixture of powdered rust and oil that has magnetic qualities. He used this to magnetize 88% of microplastics present in the water sample.
This innovation won him the 1st prize in the Science Fair conducted by Google in 2019. He is now working on finding a compatible filtrating device to incorporate this system. He also intends to experiment with the self-cleaning filter in ocean engines that may have a large-scale impact.
Bottom Feeders Act As Living Vacuum Cleaners
Dr. Juan Alava, marine conservation and eco-toxicology expert, thinks that the issue of microplastics can be resolved by the ‘Living Vacuum Cleaners’. These are organisms known as bottom feeders including sea cucumbers and other epiplastic microbial species.
These communities enable the bacteria to break down the synthetic material. Some of these bacteria originally evolved for metabolizing polymer that occurs naturally like wax and lignin. While other bacteria have evolved to specifically feed on plastic garbage.
Alava notes that when the organism can remove more plastic without accumulating them in the body, it becomes the best solution to eliminate microplastic.
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Other Natural & Man-Made Resistances
March Ward was the first scientist to analyze the threats of plastic particles to marine turtles near Costa Rica where turtles were ingesting toxic microplastics spread across the beach. He gradually began sifting through the beaches in coastal Oregon and South America with a static-charged screen able to capture plastic pieces up to 50 microns. Finally, he is working on filtering tonnes of plastics from Oregon beaches annually with a non-profit initiative called Blue Wave.
The scientists at the Research Centre in Finland called VTT Technical have created a nano-cellulose mesh that is associated with plants. It is a novel type of water filter. Small nano plastics of 0.1 micrometers are found to be acutely difficult to eliminate from wastewater and drinking water. It is also accumulating in human tissues.
The colloidal, porous structure of this cellulose allows it to tie to the nano plastic without the use of any mechanical and chemical interaction. Cellulose filters may help researchers to examine nano plastics. Although the research is in the preliminary stages, nano cellulose products have been attracting industry interest.