Microplastics and nanoplastics cause significant environmental concerns due to their potentially harmful effects on ecosystems and wildlife. This World Environment Day (June 5), let's vow to protect our environment by reducing plastic use.

Tiny pieces of plastic called microplastics, which are less than 5mm in size, can be found everywhere. They can be carried by the wind and are found in faraway parts, like mountains and polar regions.

The scarier part is that these fragments are even found in the food we consume and the water we drink.

How do microplastics enter and impact our environment?

Microplastics get into the environment when plastic materials are made or break down into smaller pieces. Since they are very small, they can easily be carried by wind and water. As a result, microplastics are found everywhere, like in oceans, rivers and even the air we breathe.

"Microplastics are also a concern particularly in the ocean because they are so easily ingested by living things," Paul Anastas, the director of the Center for Green Chemistry at Yale University, told the Yale Sustainability website. "When a fish or invertebrate absorbs these microplastics by eating them, they can experience health problems such as a severe interference to or an abrasion with their digestive tracts, which can be fatal."

How do they harm humans?

Tiny pieces of plastic are found everywhere around us. We can accidentally breathe them in, and swallow them with our food and water, or they can enter our bodies through dermal absorption, according to News-Medical.net.

Environmentalists raise concerns regarding the potential health risks associated with microplastics. It is believed that microplastics, which are as harmful as asbestos fibers, have the ability to cause lung inflammation and potentially lead to cancer.

How to deal with the threat

It is a persistent threat and while it is nearly impossible to completely avoid microplastics, there are effective measures to reduce their spread and the risk of ingestion by making some swaps in our daily life, like opting for filtered tap water, avoiding synthetic clothing and minimizing the use of exfoliants with microbeads.

Furthermore, switching to plant-based, biodegradable alternatives can somewhat diffuse the danger.

"Right now, there are greener plastics being introduced but people aren't familiar with them yet," Anastas said. "A lot of these new plant-based, biodegradable products are similar to the natural polymers you would find in trees, leaves, and grass. You need to know they exist and demand them in your products."

This World Environment Day, let's vow to protect our environment by striving to curb plastic pollution. You can implement a ban on single-use plastics and replace everyday items that contain microplastics with sustainable alternatives.

Here are some thought-provoking quotes that remind us that our convenience today can have devastating consequences for future generations. (Courtesy: Diverbliss.com)

  • "If we pollute the air, water, and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us." – David Suzuki
  • "It cannot be right to manufacture billions of objects that are used for a matter of minutes, and then are with us for centuries." – Roz Savage
  • "Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans." – Jacques-Yves Cousteau
  • "I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use." – Mother Teresa
Swimming at Sea
Pollution of coastal waters may be the cause behind illnesses caused by sea swimming. Spencer Watson/Unsplash