Something you may have experienced on the beach: just as you dug your feet into the sand, you begin to feel little bits between your toes. This plastic is indeed an essential part of marine litter, you can not see it, but you can feel it. A recent scientific study revealed that every kilogram of European sand contained on average 250 microplastic pieces: fragments smaller than 5 mm. There are even traces of significantly smaller plastic fragments called nanoplasts. Ironically, these little plastic pieces cause the biggest problems. All types and sizes of plastic make up the plastic soup. The increasing use of plastics worldwide has created large areas of floating plastic waste in rivers and oceans, and many of these plastics are breaking up into smaller fragments. Our demand for plastics not only has devastating consequences for the oceans, wildlife is also affected by plastic pollution. It seems that fish tend to confuse the smell of plastic with food and intentionally devour it. Since most plastics are not biodegradable, let alone (biodegradable), they stay in the environment for a long time. In various ways, such as eating fish and shellfish, these small plastic fragments have already invaded our food web and our bodies.

Plastic rubble in the oceans

The oceans and oceans of the world are covered in plastic waste and every year we add millions of tons more plastic in marine environments. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, our oceans will be more plastic than fish by 2025 contain. Plastic litter - plastic bags, fishing nets for example - get into the oceans through rivers, wind and weather. The floating elements are made of plastics such as polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). In the ocean, even the largest pieces of plastic are smashed and broken by the waves. Ultraviolet radiation, sunlight, makes plastic brittle, and heat and wave action grate it into flakes. Over time, the flakes are further shredded by the elements, smaller and smaller and eventually becoming microparticles or nanoparticles. Most of these small plastic particles are as stated not biodegradable and / or insoluble in water. It is absolutely obvious that this "plastic soup"

Small plastic particles in our food

large part of the discussions about micro- and nanoparticles in the environment initially focused on their production, for example, for cosmetics or cleaning products. But several new studies show that these tiny fragments of plastic also enter our food chain, eg. On the consumption of fish and seafood (shrimp, mussels and the like). In addition to seafood, scientists also point to other foods such as milk and honey. These products are often accidentally contaminated in the production process: it appears that the soiled machines are sometimes cleaned with a substance containing plastic scouring particles. But there is also the deliberate use of microplastics, so-called "microbeads", especially for personal care products. These, too, will eventually end up in the environment through our food chain. At the same time, however, the penetration of the chains by micro- and nanoparticles is still very unclear. Although the amount of microplastic has been measured in oceans and seas, there are currently no standardized methods for measuring the occurrence of all these types of plastic particles in food.

Health risks

So far, scientific research on microplastic pollution has focused mainly on the effects on the oceans. Public concerns about micro- and nano-plastics are increasing for human health because of the above-mentioned risks. Especially now that new studies on microplastic have revealed that these small particles are detectable in our food webs. So far, there is little research on the presence of harmful substances in microplastics and the health effects of consumption. However, the problem with microplastics is also that they consist of different types of plastics. In addition, the plastic particles are often mixed compounds and then contain a variety of additives (such as plasticizers) and vary considerably in their composition. A Current study by the Swedish University Ör ebro presents a number of new findings from different parts of the world, which clearly show that microplastics can damage marine animals, but it remains uncertain whether there is a reasonable limit to the exposure of animals and humans. Since these small plastic particles have a low weight, they dissolve easily and get into water, food or body tissues with possible consequences for the health. It is therefore expected that much more scientific research on microparticles and nanoparticles and their impact on human health will take place in the coming years.