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Abstract

Due to increasing use of plastic globally, high levels of microplastic are found in rivers and oceans. Microplastics have entered the food chain, too. Various studies reported up to 600 particle microplasctics per kilogram of salt, up to 660 microplastic fibers per kilogram of honey and up to about 109 microplastic fragments per liter of beer. Microplastics are known endocrine disruptors and are implicated in numerous health challenges like diabetes, cancer, and obesity. It is a social responsibility for everyone to reduce the usage of plastics and thereby bring down the entry of microplastics in food chain
PLASTIC & HEALTH
Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that are
found all over the world in rivers, oceans, soil and other
environments. They are defined as plastic particles less
than 0.2 inches (5 mm) in diameter. They are either
produced as small plastics such as microbeads added
to toothpaste and exfoliants, or are created when
larger plastics are broken down in the environment.
Microplastics are common in oceans, rivers and soil and
are often directly consumed by animals.
Due to increasing use of plastic globally, high levels
of microplastic are found in rivers and oceans. An
estimated 8.8 million tons (8 million metric tonnes) of
plastic waste enter the ocean every year. A whopping
2,76,000 tons (2,50,000 metric tonnes) of this plastic is
currently floating at sea, while the rest has likely sunk
or washed ashore.
Microplastics
in Food Chain
Aparna Kuna & M Sreedhar
Microplastics in Food
Microplastics have entered the food chain,
too. Various studies reported up to 600 particle
microplasctics per kilogram of salt, up to 660
microplastic fibers per kilogram of honey and up to
about 109 microplastic fragments per liter of beer.
Fishes, mussels and oysters harvested for human
consumption are reported to have 0.36–0.47 particles
of microplastic per gram, meaning that seafood
consumers could ingest up to 11,000 particles
of microplastic per year. Land animals also eat
microplastics just like fish which gets accumulated in
their digestive systems. When the digestive systems of
sheep, goats etc are consumed, there is every chance
that microplastic could be ingested. A study on chickens
raised in gardens in Mexico had an average of 10
microplastics per chicken gizzard – a delicacy in some
parts of the world.
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Among all the sources, the biggest known source
of microplastics that is consumed is bottled water.
Single-use water bottles contains 2 to 44 microplastics
per litre, while returnable bottles (designed for
collection under a deposit scheme) contains 28 to 241
microplastics per litre. The microplastics enter food
chain from various packaging materials. There is also
evidence that microplastics in food come from indoor
dust. A recent study reported that an annual dose of
almost 70,000 microplastics from dust settles on food.
Effect of Microplastics on Health
Health risks from plastics come primarily from food
storage, preparation, and purchasing. When food
is heated in plastic containers and/or wrap, plastic
can leach harmful chemicals into the food. These
chemicals, bisphenols and phthalates, are known
endocrine disruptors and are implicated in numerous
health challenges like diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
Phthalates, a type of chemical used to make plastic
flexible, have been shown to increase the growth of
breast cancer cells and also interfere with reproductive
hormones, especially in women. When fed to mice,
the microplastics accumulated in the liver, kidneys
and intestines, apart form increased levels of oxidative
stress molecules in the liver. Microplastic molecules
may also be toxic to the human brain. Microplastics
have been shown to pass from the intestines into blood
and potentially into other organs.
Plastics have also been found in humans. One study
found that plastic fibers were present in 87% of the
human lungs studied. The researchers reported that it
could be due to microplastics present in the air. Some
studies have shown that microplastics in the air may
cause lung cells to produce inflammatory chemicals.
However, this has only been shown in test-tube studies.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most studied
chemicals found in plastic. It is usually found in plastic
packaging or food storage containers and can leak
out into food causing health hazards on repeated
consumption. Hence it is important to reduce the risk
of microplastic contamination in foods. Following
are few simple modifications which can be adapted to
reduce risk of microplastics:
Use glass or ceramic bowls to heat food in the
microwave. Never heat food in plastic containers in
the microwave.
Allow food to cool to room temperature before
putting it into plastic storage containers.
Use glass or stainless / ceramic / wood / steel /
earthen containers for storage of food and drinking
water.
Eat fresh foods as much as possible.
Reduce fast foods and packaged or processed foods.
Use cloth or canvas bags for shopping.
Avoid putting plastic containers in dishwasher
as they leach chemicals onto other dishes in the
dishwasher. Hand-wash plastic containers.
Consider reusable containers. Avoid plastics with
recycling codes 3 (phthalates), 6 (styrene), and 7
(bisphenols)
Many of us were taught as children to leave places
cleaner than we found them. Yet, as adults, many of us
have forgotten this fundamental rule when it comes to
the planet. While recycling is a big part of keeping our
environment safe and clean, reducing consumption is
more impactful. Although we might not think much
about microplastics when we purchase or store food
or beverages, these choices have a serious impact
on the health of our planet and ourselves. Hence, it
is a social responsibility for everyone to reduce the
usage of plastics and thereby bring down the entry of
microplastics in food chain. n
(Principal Scientist & Head,
MFPI - Quality Control Laboratory,
Prof. Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural
University, Rajendranagar, Hyderabad 500 030
Email: aparnakuna@gmail.com)
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... Microplastics enter the ecosystems either directly or indirectly through several processes (Boyle and Ö rmeci, 2020), and are 4 to 23 folds more prevalent in the soil ecosystems than in aquatic ecosystems (Horton et al., 2017;Nizzetto et al., 2016). Yearly, an estimated 8 million metric tonnes of plastic wastes enter the ocean alone (Kuna and Sreedhar, 2019). With this volume, microplastics can actively infiltrate environments (air, soil, and water) used for agricultural purposes (Akindele et al., 2020;de Souza Machado et al., 2018a), with attendant impacts that make them 'pollutant of importance and agents of global change' (Rillig et al., 2021;Bernhardt et al., 2017). ...
... Humans are also exposed to microplastics indoors, presenting a challenge to populations that stay long hours or work indoors (Gasperi et al., 2018;Dris et al., 2016). Annually, an estimated 70,000 microplastic fine particles settle on exposed food (Kuna and Sreedhar 2019). Either way, ingestion of microplastic particles by human manifests in several disease conditions ranging from asthma to cancer. ...
... Microplastics enter the food chain directly (exposed foods and drinks) or bioaccumulate or magnify in tissues of primary producers (Kuna and Sreedhar (2019). Amongst the few reports on microplastic food contamination, Toussaint et al. (2019) reeled data for 201 edible animal species comprising saltwater fish (164), molluscs (23), crustaceans (7), birds (2), sweet-water fish (2), turtles (2), chicken (2), some food products (canned sardines and sprats, sea salt, sugar, and honey), as well as beer and water. ...
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... They are often originated from plastic residues of the agricultural uses such as mulching, row covers, greenhouses, nurseries, pots, silage bags and irrigation system (Qi et al., 2020;Schirmel et al., 2018;Wang et al., 2019) being the most frequently plastic used in agriculture polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) Riveros et al., 2022). Despite being known that MPs enter the food chain directly (exposed foods and drinks) or bioaccumulate on primary production (Kuna and Sreedhar, 2019), there are few reports on the effect of MPs on crop plants (Toussaint et al., 2019;Wu et al., 2021) or as emerging food contaminants (Campanale et al., 2022;Kuna and Sreedhar, 2019). ...
... They are often originated from plastic residues of the agricultural uses such as mulching, row covers, greenhouses, nurseries, pots, silage bags and irrigation system (Qi et al., 2020;Schirmel et al., 2018;Wang et al., 2019) being the most frequently plastic used in agriculture polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) Riveros et al., 2022). Despite being known that MPs enter the food chain directly (exposed foods and drinks) or bioaccumulate on primary production (Kuna and Sreedhar, 2019), there are few reports on the effect of MPs on crop plants (Toussaint et al., 2019;Wu et al., 2021) or as emerging food contaminants (Campanale et al., 2022;Kuna and Sreedhar, 2019). ...
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Plastics are one of the most indispensable item in our daily life and since it's invention in the 1900s, the global production and their usage have increased manifolds. Global production of plastic was 1.7 million tons in 1950 but have risen to 348 million tons in 2017. Plastics have many advantages and are widely accepted because of it's low cost, durability and easy malleability. In one word we are simply living in plastic age. Owing to have highly resistant to get degraded, plastic wastes are increasingly getting accumulated in all three spheres of our environment which includes water, soil and air. Improper management of such huge loads of plastic wastes gives rising of another nuisance i.e., Microplastics (MPs) pollution. This kind of pollution is actually of very recent type and in fact, the term “Microplastics” was first time coined by Thompson in 2004 and described about small plastic particles in the oceans in 2004. The plastic wastes usually persists for longer periods of time in nature and with due course of time they gets fragmented, disintegrated with further concomitant formation of smaller plastic particles which are defined as Microplastics. However there is a specific size classification for MPs particles which are already well documented. The size specification are: Macroplastics (˃ 2 cm), mesoplastics (5 mm to 2 cm), microplastics (MP) (<5 mm), and nanoplastics (<1 mm) (Lebreton et al., 2018). Present days, MPs pollution has become a topic of global concern. Evidences are mounting over regarding the ubiquitous presence of MPs in all sorts of environment including farthest region from the production and dumping site such as MPs are reported from ices of near peaks of Mount Everest and deep sea sediments. MPs have been reported in seafoods, salts, drinking water and presently have been listed as second most important scientific issue in the field of environment and ecology (Horton et al., 2017). Although plastics waste get their route from terrestrial ecosystem to aquatic systems but surprisingly numerous studies have been conducted, reported with an over emphasizing efforts on MPs pollution in aquatic systems but there is a serious knowledge gap regarding MPs pollution in the terrestrial part. The MPs level on terrestrial system can be 4 to 23 times more than that of ocean (Horton et al., 2017). With such many estimates, very recently the scientific investigation commenced on MPs contamination in terrestrial environment and the momentum is gradually increasing worldwide. Although there are paramount evidences regarding ubiquity of MPs in environment including soil, we have insufficient information about potential sources of MPs in soil.
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