Economical, sterile, convenient. Plastic has changed our lives. It arrives and disappears quickly. But it actually takes 500 to 1000 years to decompose. By 2050 we will have more plastic than fishes in the seas. They call it “plastic soup”.
Actually, where does the rubbish end up (99.9% is plastic)?
– 9% is recycled
– 12% is burnt out
– 79% pollute the environment, in particular the seas. And therefore in the food chain.
Microplastics, the most insidious
The most insidious plastics are invisible: the microplastics:
– from 0.1 µm to 5mm in diameter
– also used for cosmetics and toothpastes
– most of them come from floating garbage that, when exposed to UV rays, shatters
– present everywhere: air, water and food
– may contain approximately 4% of additives
– there are also nanoplastics: from 1 to 100 nanometers.
Risks of microplastics for health
The questions are:
- What happens when the microplastics end up in our plates?
- what are the damages of additives and contaminants absorbed by plastics?
Only a few studies have been published, however some of these researches, which were conducted on animals (in vivo) and in vitro, show that microplastics have negative effects. Some examples:
– BPA (bisphenol A) is an additive of many products, including plastics. It makes transparent the bottles, but it interferes with our endocrine system
– DEHP and other phthalates (esters of phthalic acid) give flexibility and elasticity to plastics, but can cause cancer.
There is also concern for the high concentrations of pollutants that can accumulate in microplastics. For example:
- polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).
Food contaminated by microplastics
The microplastics were detected in:
- fish, but since microplastics accumulate mostly in the stomach and intestine of fishes, which are usually eliminated, consumers are not exposed. Worse for seafood, oysters and mussels in particular.
- sea salt.
- tap water
- domestic dust.
Efsa: development of analytical methods
As Efsa wrote, to assess human risk there is no toxicological and toxicokinetic data, both for microplastics and for nanoplastics. To investigate the presence, identity and quantity in food it is recommended to develop analytical methods for microplastics and nanoplastic detection and standardize them in order to contribute to their monitoring.
In the field of plastics, Renolab offers its experience on the analysis of raw materials, additives and contaminants. Request information or a quote.