It’s Not Just Sea Life That’s Inadvertently Consuming Toxic Plastics

Ready for more bad news concerning the ingestion of toxic plastics? At least, it seems that way every time we click on the news. Unfortunately, there is some unsettling information regarding the subject, and this time it’s not focusing on wildlife but on human beings. As it turns out, microplastics tend to collect in hotspots in the nasal cavity or the back of the throat, and it’s as unhealthy for us as it sounds.

In recent years, we have regularly been inundated with stories regarding the negative impacts of plastics on wildlife, both on land and sea, from the Mariana Trench to the top of Mount Everest. If they’re not getting stuck in them, they’re ingesting them, leading researchers to warn us of what’s to come if we can’t start effectively combatting the problem now.

plastic pollution on beach
Photo: Pixabay/augerto

Plastics are routinely cited as the contributing cause of death among whales and other sea creatures that keep washing ashore. It seems that if we’re not mowing them down with watercraft, we’re stuffing them full of plastics that float around the oceans like so much toxic flotsam and jetsam.

With whales, they may swallow it during feedings when, with their mouths agape, they surge through the water full speed ahead after their next meal. With humans, however, we’re actually breathing it, and the report indicates it amounts to snorting roughly a credit-card-sized quantity of plastic each week. Yikes!

credit cards
Photo: Pixabay/

Microplastics are teeny-tiny bits of plastic debris filling our oceans and floating around in the environment. They stem from industrial processes, certain consumer products, and the breakdown of waste. While plastic toxins have been reported in humans before, the question has always been how they definitively got there.

For instance, according to Nat Geo, “A few years ago, as microplastics began turning up in the guts of fish and shellfish, the concern was focused on the safety of seafood. Shellfish were a particular worry, because in their case, unlike fish, we eat the entire animal — stomach, microplastics, and all. In 2017, Belgian scientists announced that seafood lovers could consume up to 11,000 plastic particles a year by eating mussels, a favorite dish in that country.”

shellfish platter
Photo: Pixabay/mp1746

But recently, microplastics have been discovered for the first time in our airways, which ups the concern of long-term exposure and corresponding impacts on respiratory health. In fact, studies have already demonstrated that microplastics resting deep inside our airways can pose significant respiratory health hazards, so it’s no longer a “what-if” situation.

“Millions of tons of these microplastic particles have been found in water, air, and soil. Global microplastic production is surging, and the density of microplastics in the air is increasing significantly,” stated study co-author Mohammad S. Islam.

woman breathing
Photo: Pixabay/ShooInau

The study found that plastic particles containing toxins tend to collect in “hotspots” within the nasal cavity or the back of the throat, with their deposit rate contingent upon breathing conditions and particle size.

“The complicated and highly asymmetric anatomical shape of the airway and complex flow behavior in the nasal cavity and oropharynx causes the microplastics to deviate from the flow path line and deposit in those areas,” Islam explained.

What it boils down to is we need to get our plastic situation under control tout suite, or things or going to end very badly for all of us.
On a brighter note, the UN has a roadmap for how we can all slash plastic pollution by 80 percent globally by 2040, if anyone is interested.

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