How tiny toxic plastic particles are ending up in your food

Here’s a good reason never to buy a six-pack again. We’re talking beer, soda, or anything else that’s held together by those six-pack plastic rings.

Since they were invented in the 1960s, it’s safe to say those rings have killed tens of thousands of sea animals, mostly by entrapping them. In 1994, the EPA stepped in and mandated that all ring carriers sold in the U.S. be degradable.

Many manufacturers now make rings that are photodegradable, which means they break down in the light. One such manufacturer claims it takes only three to four months for the rings to break down.

Problem solved? Not by a long shot.

When these rings, and other plastic trash, break down — they never really go away.

They become tiny particles that present an even bigger problem. They’re just the right size to become food for those sea animals and other creatures who absorb BPA and phthalates, the toxins found in plastics. Can you guess what happens next? Those toxins are passed straight on to us on our dinner plates.

And the problem is growing.

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Microplastic: the poison that travels far

Microplastic is defined as pieces of plastic that are less than 5mm in size. Think confetti, or sprinkles on your ice cream. They’re that small, and they travel fast. And far.

In 2017, researchers from the University of Aberdeen sent a remotely-controlled vehicle into the Mariana Trench, the “Mount Everest of the oceans.” It’s the farthest you can get from any human source of pollution.

They didn’t go in search of pollution, but that’s exactly what they found. The vehicle returned with crustaceans carrying levels of PCB up to 50 times greater than crustaceans living in some of the most polluted rivers in the world.

Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Well, remember those sea creatures? They’re not the only ones eating microplastic. There are other animals busy transporting the toxins found in plastic all over the world, and right onto our dinner plates.

How poison travels up the food chain

A new study conducted by British and Irish researchers demonstrated that insects eat microplastics and carry them through the air. Not only that, but microplastics and their toxins survive from the larva stage right through the adult insect stage.

The researchers inserted two microscopic particles of polystyrene into young mosquitoes and observed the creatures throughout their life cycles. They found that the particles were still in the mosquitoes’ systems as they passed through each life cycle stage and became flying adults.

A wide range of fish and animals eat mosquitoes and suffer the same toxic effects of BPA and phthalates as we do.

Chelsea Rochman, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, compared three groups of Japanese medaka, a species of fish often used in lab studies.

One group of fish received commercial fish food, another received 90 percent fish food and 10 percent clean plastic particles, and the third received 90 percent fish food and 10 percent plastic particles that had been floating in San Diego Bay for three months.

Both plastic-eating groups had low levels of glycogen in the liver, replaced by the excess fat that precedes fatty liver disease.

Even more ominous, both plastic-eating groups had tumor development. Those fed clean plastic had changes in their cells, but those who ate dirty plastic experienced cell death.

It doesn’t take much to figure out what eating fish who’ve eaten plastic will do to us.

How to avoid eating microplastics

Seafood and shellfish are by far the food source most highly contaminated with microplastics.

But so many other things we eat and drink are, too, that it’s almost impossible to avoid.

Drinking water, beer, even vegetables are contaminated with plastic and the chemicals they contain.

For example, leafy greens grown in plastic greenhouses have been shown to have higher levels of endocrine-disrupting phthalates.

There are certain things you can do to lower your risk:

  1. Buy organic. Even better, know the source. If you can gain access to local farmers and fishermen, you stand a better chance of finding cleaner food.
  2. Use a water filter. It may not get rid of everything, but it will rid your water of a lot of contaminants.
  3. To avoid the microplastics in salt, use pink Himalayan rock salt.
  4. If you’re a beer drinker, try local breweries and look for one that uses filtered water.
  5. Consider cleansing and EDTA chelation to help your body purge these poisons.

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Sources:

  1. Flying Insects can Carry Microplastics Through the Air, Study Shows — Natural Society
  2. Fish Eat Plastic from Polluted Oceans, Travels up Food Chain & Harms Humans — Natural Society
  3. New Research: Lab Fish Fed Plastic More Likely To Develop Tumors, Liver Problems — Oregon Public Broadcasting
  4. One overlooked source of phthalate exposure – oral intake from vegetables produced in plastic greenhouses in ChinaScience of the Total Environment
  5. Beer, Drinking Water And Fish: Tiny Plastic Is Everywhere — NPR
  6. Shocking Pollution Levels Discovered in the Mariana Trench — Natural Society

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.