Global Awareness conference speaks on worldwide water issues

Humans consume microplastics constantly 

By Andrew Ayala

Humans consume microplastics through the food eaten, the water drunk and the items used as part of a daily routine. 

Microplastics are smaller pieces of plastic that pollute the environment and are smaller than five millimeters in length. 

Students from Santa Monica College spoke about the effects these microplastics have on humans and their environment.

They said that 3.95 trillion plastic bags are thrown out every year, 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches and 2 million pounds of plastic eating utensils are found in the ocean.

“After the fish and sea animals, us humans consume microplastics through inhaling the particles in the air or also through eating items such as shellfish and oysters,” said Emily Bonilla, a second-year student at SMC.

“Consumption in us humans ranges from about 32,000 to 52,000 particles annually. Those numbers do spike up if you include the inhalation of the air… Here in California, about 33% of our oysters in our markets have microplastic particles inside of them.”

These particles are said to go through our system and out our waste. 

Bonilla said that if the microplastics are small enough, they can go into  tissues and cause immune reactions or release toxic substances in the human body. 

Some of the toxic chemicals can interfere with hormones and reduce fertility rates.

Aleks Ekelund, a freshman student at SMC began naming solutions and other forms of plastic that can help reduce these particles from being consumed.

“Instead of making plastic out of petroleum, we can make plastics out of plants and this is the basis for those kind. PLA (polylactides) plastics are made out of sugar that we extract from corn and sugarcane, while PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) plastics are made of microorganisms,” said Ekelund.

She said that people must still recycle those because although they lower emissions, they can still be harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly because they still take hundreds of years to decompose.

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