A team of scientists in China recently found microplastics in the human heart for the first time.
- Microplastics are tiny bits of various types of plastic found in the environment.
- They are a result of the fragmentation and degradation of larger plastic items, as well as the direct release of tiny plastic particles, often intentionally added to consumer products like cosmetics and cleaning agents.
- The name is used to differentiate them from “macroplastics” such as bottles and bags made of plastic.
- There is no universal agreement on the size that fits this bill — the U.S. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the European Chemical Agency define microplastic as less than 5mm in length.
What are the Types of Microplastics?
- There are two categories of microplastics: primary and secondary.
- Primary microplastics:
- They are tiny particles designed for commercial use, such as cosmetics, as well as microfibers shed from clothing and other textiles, such as fishing nets.
- They enter the environment directly through any of various channels—for example, product use, unintentional loss from spills during manufacturing or transport, or abrasion during washing.
- Secondary microplastics:
- They are particles that result from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as water bottles.
- This typically happens when larger plastics undergo weathering, through exposure to, for example, wave action, wind abrasion, and ultraviolet radiation from sunlight.
- Environmental Impact:
- Microplastics are not biodegradable.
- Thus, once in the environment, primary and secondary microplastics accumulate and persist.
- They can be ingested by marine organisms, leading to potential harm to aquatic life and bioaccumulation along the food chain.
- They can also carry toxic chemicals and pollutants, posing additional risks to organisms and ecosystems.
Q1) What is bioaccumulation?
Bioaccumulation refers to the process by which substances, such as chemicals or pollutants, accumulate within the tissues of living organisms over time. This accumulation occurs as organisms ingest or absorb these substances from their environment, and the substances are retained within their bodies at a rate faster than they can be metabolized or eliminated.