Microplastics come from various sources: they are found massively in products such as cosmetics, personal and household hygiene products, building materials, industries and agriculture. In cosmetics, microplastics often constitute up to 90% of the total weight of the product, as in the case of skin exfoliants.
Tire wear also produces microplastics. A large quantity of microplastics is of household origin, such as those coming from the washing of synthetic garments, which are poured into the water. This problem can be reduced by special filters, washing at low temperatures and the use of liquid detergents.
Agriculture is also a producer of microplastics. The sheets that are used to mulch disintegrate into the soil when they are not collected and disposed of properly at the end of the crop cycle. Left on the ground, plastics can degrade by abrasion, by atmospheric agents and by the action of insects or mammals.
The study, The potential effects of microplastics on human health: What is known and what is unknown, published in the Ambio, told: "Microplastic contamination is ubiquitous in aquatic and terrestrial environments, found in water, sediments, within organisms and in the atmosphere and the biological effects on animal and plant life have been extensively investigated in recent years.
There is growing evidence that humans are exposed to microplastics via ingestion of food and drink and through inhalation Despite the prevalence of contamination, there has been limited research on the effects of microplastics on human health and most studies, to date, analyze the effects on model organisms with the likely impacts on human health being inferred by extrapolation.
This review summarizes the latest findings in the field with respect to the prevalence of microplastics in the human-environment, to what extent they might enter and persist in the body, and what effect, if any, they are likely to have on human health Whilst definitive evidence linking microplastic consumption to human health is currently lacking, results from Correlative studies in people exposed to high concentrations of microplastics, model animal and cell culture experiments, suggest that effects of microplastics could include provoking immune and stress responses and inducing reproductive and developmental toxicity.
Further research is required to explore the potential implications of this recent contaminant in our environment in more rigorous clinical studies."