Microplastics are very small plastic debris between 1 micron and 5 mm in diameter. 1 micron is one thousandth of the size of 1 millimetre. Very small and unable to be seen by the human eye. They come in a variety of forms, colors and materials and often in the form of Polypropylene and polyethylene (which is what the plastics we have in the home are made of) and until very recently they have been totally ignored.
Studies over the last couple of years have shown these pollutants to be ubiquitous in our environment as well as in our food. In fact, they have become a global environmental pollutant where they are distributed throughout our oceans, waterways and land environments and are leading to major ecological health concerns. These microplastics accumulate through the food chain, a lot like the old pesticides we have which are now banned, and pose a major threat to humans as we are at the top of the global food chain.
Due to their small size, microplastics can under certain conditions can get into the circulatory system and accumulate in different types of tissues. A wide range of toxic effects caused by commercial MPs including altering our endocrine system (hormones) and liver stress, oxidative stress, changes in our metabolism, reduced enzyme activity, cellular death and altering the gut microbiome to name some of the problems they have identified.
Major sources of these microplactics include both through our food and air and a recent study focusing on the American diet estimated that annual microplastics consumption ranges from 39000 to 52000 particles depending on age and sex. These estimates increase to 74000 and 121000 when inhalation is considered.
Most importantly one of the easiest ways to reduce exposure is to reduce the amount of low quality plastics coming in contact with your food and water like the low quality plastics found in many water bottles.