7 Foods that Contain Microplastics & How to Avoid them
What goes around, comes around — literally in case of plastic waste.
The daily-use plastic products that we toss away breakdown into a much smaller size and eventually find their way back to us in the form of microplastics. In fact, you might be breathing in plastic bits this very moment while reading this post.
So, what are microplastics, and where do they come from?
Basically, microplastics are tiny plastic particles about the size of a sesame seed (usually less than 5mm). They are formed by the disintegration of larger plastic products like disposable cups, single-use plastic bags, straws, and packaged foods, to name a few.
We are exposed to these minuscule particles every day. According to a study conducted on plastic ingestion by humans, an average person eats at least 50,000 microplastic particles every year. They have infiltrated our food chain, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.
Clearly, there’s no running away from microplastic. However, you can cut down your exposure to it. In this post, we have listed various food products you consume that contain microplastic. Additionally, we have shared insights on how to curb their use.
Water is one of the worst sources of microplastic. In fact, a person who drinks only bottled water would ingest around 130,000 fragments of microplastic yearly from that source alone.
Single-use plastic bottles leach plastic particles into water. This infiltration only gets worse when the bottle is exposed to direct sunlight.
Try switching to tap water to reduce microplastic ingestion. Also, you can use reusable metal or glass bottles instead of single-use plastic ones.
However, note that tap water contains tiny plastic bits too. But the contamination level in bottled water is almost double than tap water.
A research conducted on beer contamination suggests, one liter of beer contains 4.05 plastic fibers on an average. Since brands use municipal water for brewing, it’s likely to find beers infiltrated with microplastic.
The best alternative would be to look for brands that use filtered water for brewing or switching to wine altogether (let that sink in).
Seafood (Shellfish and Fish)
Vegans can sidestep this one. For others, seafood makes up for an essential part of the diet. Although it might not be as healthy as you think it is.
Shellfish is the second major source of microplastic after water. That is because many marine species mistakenly eat plastic debris floating in the ocean.
Consequently, traces of tiny plastic fibers are present in their entire body, including bivalves, which are then consumed by humans.
It might be a good time for you to go vegan, or skip these seafood items at least. You can add salmons, fresh calamari, and whitefish (mercury-free) to your diet instead.
Did you know you sprinkle plastic on your food every day? That’s right. One kg of sea salt contains 212 particles of microplastic on an average.
It shouldn’t sound surprising, to be honest. Considering the extent of plastic debris dumped in the sea, we had it coming. Also, traces of plastic is found in table salts too.
The only workaround is to buy Himalayan pink or Redmond sea salt. They have been formed millions of years ago from unpolluted sea beds.
Plastic is indeed your cup of tea.
As it turns out, your favorite brewed beverage might be floating with billions of tiny plastic particles (11.6 billion to be precise).
Plastic teabags when dipped in hot water leach microplastics in the cup. While most of the brands use paper teabags, they often add plastic to add further strength and seal the bag.
On the other hand, some premium brands use a higher proportion of plastic to offer a pyramid shape for, apparently, better infusion of tea leaves.
Avoid plastic teabags altogether, and start using loose tea leaves if possible.
However, if you wish to hang on to paper teabags, choose the ones without plastic seal. Some brands use strings or staple the folded edge to shut them.
Moreover, you can safely compost these plastic-free teabags later.
The biggest health threat with canned foods is the chemical BPA. Bisphenol-A (BPA) poses serious health risks, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and reproductive disorder.
Most of the cans are lined with BPA to harden the plastic. As a result, it seeps into the food inside and contaminates it.
Try avoiding canned food and go for items with glass packaging instead.
If you want to go one step further, buy fresh and organic food. You can use cardboards and reusable containers to fill up items in bulk. Also, carry a reusable bag to avoid single-use plastic bags.
However, if you’re determined to go for canned food, check out its food score before buying one.
The quick meals you have every day add a secret ingredient to your diet along with other nutrients – microplastic.
As you know, ready meals are usually served in plastic containers. When you bake it in a microwave or oven, several tiny plastic bits leach into the food.
Steer clear of plastic packaging and try to get ready meals in cardboard containers.
More importantly, avoid heated plastic. Use a pan in the oven or stove to warm up your food. For microwave, go with glass or ceramic containers.
Let’s meet the plastic problem head-on.
We need a grassroot movement to eliminate plastic from our lifestyle. This can only happen when we substitute plastic with more environment-friendly alternatives.
Switching to reusable products (metal straws, reusable mugs, sustainably made bags, bamboo items, etc.) offers a good start on the journey of sustainable living.
The lesser plastic we use, the lesser chances of microplastic pollution.