By Elton Gomes
There is a high chance that we could be swallowing over 100 tiny plastic particles, according to a new study conducted by researchers from UK-based Heriot-Watt University. While conducting the study, the researchers found that polymers from soft furnishings and synthetic fabrics enter household dust particles, which is how these plastic particles settle onto our plates.
The discovery was made after the researchers kept Petri dishes containing sticky dust traps next to dinner plates in three homes. The experiment led to a startling discovery—at the end of a 20 minute meal, up to 14 pieces of plastic were found in the Petri dishes.
As an average dinner plate is larger than a Petri dish, this amounted to 114 plastic fibres falling on the plate. The research led scientists to estimate that an average person can swallow anywhere between 13,731 to 68,415 microplastic particles in a year.
Where do these particles come from?
Dr. Ted Henry, the study’s senior author and a professor at Heriot-Watt University, said, “We do not know where these fibres come from, but it is likely to be inside the home and the wider environment.”
The other researchers who co-authored the study, agreed with Henry, adding that the plastic fibres did not come from the food or the cooking environment, but household dust. According to the researchers, apart from ingesting plastic particles via food, one can also ingest them just by breathing.
Does this mean that we only need a dust-free home to save ourselves from ingesting plastic particles? Since dust particles are exceedingly minute, it is still unclear as to whether any household can truly be free of all dust.
Can India be free of plastic?
It appears that the only way to avoid ingesting plastic particles, is for Indians to find alternatives so that plastic usage can be reduced. At present, India generates more than 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste in one day. Disposing of this plastic waste has become a major concern for the government.
As the recent plastic ban in Maharashtra seems to be badly implemented, a more effective policy on plastic waste management is required to deal with the matter. People also need to be made aware of the ill-effects of plastic, as the material has the ability to clog drains, which can lead to flooding. Besides being a potential cause for floods, plastic also has the ability to degrade marine life.
The use of alternatives like jute is one solution to avoid proliferation of plastic around the environment. In addition, the government should take concrete steps towards lowering the usage of plastic.
As the world becomes increasingly environmentally conscious, it is up to citizens to increase the use of recyclable material and reduce dependency on plastic. A consolidated effort will certainly be easier to carry out and is sure to yield positive results in the near future.
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