Humans ingest at least 74,000 particles of microplastic a year, according to research in The Journal of Food Science. A lot of this comes from our takeout containers. In fact, we could be ingesting more than 200 particles a week, just from our plastic food storage units.
Microplastics from the containers themselves flake off into the food, accounting for 30% of the plastic intake from those foods. Ditch that plastic water bottle. High heat breaks the chemical bonds in plastic, increasing the microplastic shedding.
Scientists have found that microplastics can cross the hardy membrane that protects the brain from foreign bodies in the bloodstream, at least in animals. They are carcinogenic to humans. Just as troubling, mothers may pass microplastics through the placenta to their fetuses.
The chemicals leaching out of these plastics can cause long-term medical effects. The particles could release phthalates into the body, which interfere with hormones and can reduce fertility in both men and women. Plastics contain multitudes of chemicals, including bisphenols A, S and F (BPAs, BPSs, and BPFs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), linked to cancers, weakened immune systems, organ problems, and developmental delays in kids.
No matter what the compounds are, none have yet been proven safe for human consumption, and consume them is what we end up doing when we use plastic containers.
Since plastic came into common use in the 1950s, we have produced more than 8 billion tons of it. Only 10% of that, at most, has been recycled.
We breathe in tens of thousands of minuscule plastic particles a year. Plastic is in our rivers and oceans — not just in the visible trash we throw out that ends up there, but in the micro-world, with filaments leached into our food and water sources.
Even recycling can't help. Recycling can introduce hazardous chemicals into other materials, meaning our best option is to stop producing plastic containers. How do we do that? Stop buying them.
Drink from reusable stainless steel, copper or glass water bottles.
Transfer takeout to ceramic or glass dishware immediately: the sooner your food is away from the plastic, the fewer microplastics shed into it.
Do not microwave plastics or put them in the dishwasher — high heat can exacerbate microplastic shedding.
Vacuum and dust your house regularly — there is so much plastic in the environment that these particles make it into the dust in our homes; keeping it cleaner will keep our air cleaner, too.