To the Editor,
Plastic is all around us. Annual production of plastic has increased from 1.6 million tonnes in 1950 to 422 million tonnes in 2018.
Almost all of this plastic eventually becomes waste that ends up in landfills, water courses and aquatic ecosystems. There it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics which eventually end up in the air and water. Scientists have long thought that these tiny particles could enter our bodies as we eat, drink and breathe.
A recent study from the Netherlands showed that 77 percent of subjects tested were found to have microplastics in their blood stream. Although no studies have been conclusive regarding the health effects of microplastics in humans, test tube studies have shown that microplastics stretch the membranes of human red blood cells and greatly reduce their mechanical stability, which can affect their proper functioning and alter, for example, their ability to transport oxygen.
Because we now know that plastic is entering our bodies, with yet to be determined consequences to our health, we need to find ways to decrease the amount of plastic in the world around us. Like every other environmental problem we face, this is a complicated challenge, since we must compare the environmental and health costs of the plastics to the alternatives being proposed.
Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. So I say REDUCE, REDUCE, REDUCE, REUSE, REUSE, REUSE.