As plastic waste proliferates around the world, an essential question remains unanswered: What harm, if any, does it cause to human health? Scientists are rushing to study the tiny plastic specks that are in marine animals — and in us.
Scientists have since seen micro-plastics everywhere they have looked: in deep oceans; in Arctic snow and Antarctic ice; in shellfish, table salt, drinking water and beer; and drifting in the air or falling with rain over mountains and cities. These tiny pieces could take decades or more to degrade fully. “It’s almost certain that there is a level of exposure in just about all species,” says Galloway.
The tiniest specks, called nano-plastics — smaller than 1 micrometer — worry researchers most of all. Some might be able to enter cells, potentially disrupting cellular activity.
Researchers have several theories about how plastic specks might be harmful. If they’re small enough to enter cells or tissues, they might irritate just by being a foreign presence — as with the long, thin fibers of asbestos, which can inflame lung tissue and lead to cancer. Airborne particles can circle the globe in a matter of days and fall from the sky like rain. Seagoing expeditions to count micro-plastics in the ocean produce incomprehensible numbers, which have multiplied over time as more tonnage of plastic waste enters the oceans every year and disintegrates.
In Macedonia we are surrounded by the micro-plastics, that are caused by unsystematic collecting and irregular recycling. We don’t see micro-plastics as an important problem , but if we think about our problems with time and effort, we will reach the top of preventing the problem.