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May 20, 2024
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Microplastic Threat: Experts Warn of Environmental and Health Risks

Days before the celebration of Earth Day, experts in environmental and planetary health raised serious concerns over the pervasive presence of microplastics in the ecosystems and their insidious effects on our health.

During the seminar organized by the environmental watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition in partnership with the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI), Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health Center for Research and Innovation (ACRI), and the International Pollutants Elimination Network-Southeast and East Asia (IPEN-SEA).

Expert like Dr. Deo Florence Onda a Microbial oceanographer of UP MSI provided insights on “Plastics and Microplastics in the Marine Environment,” wherein he noted that the most affected by plastic pollution in the ocean are the living marine organisms.

“Our study shows that of the 240 mussel samples we tested from the 8 market sites in Luzon and Visayas, 100% showed positive for containing microplastics. We also studied the presence of microplastics in oysters and reef fish, and the result was the same.  This means that all the mussels, oysters, and fish that we buy and sell across the Philippines are highly likely contaminated with microplastics. This also indicates that the area where they were collected also has microplastics, making them present in the food we eat. Once humans ingest these microplastics-contaminated seafood, these microplastics end up in our body,” Dr. Onda pointed out.

Mr. Rodolfo Romarate II, EnP, MSc followed with a presentation on  “Breathing Plastics in Metro Manila.” Based on the study he conducted with a team of researchers,  Suspended Atmospheric Microplastics (SAMPs) were detected in the analyzed air in 16 cities and one municipality comprising the metropolis.

“In our study, we monitored the number of microplastics we breathe for those living in Metro Manila. It shows that on average, we inhale 1-2 pieces of SAMPs weekly, 6-8 SAMPs per month, and 67-88 SAMPs per year. Microplastics are now present in the air we breathe and the majority of it is from synthetic polyester found in our clothing,” Mr. Romarate II stated.

Environmental health specialist Dr. Apostol of ACRI elaborated further on how humans are exposed to microplastics in many ways: from breathing airborne microplastics to consuming them in a different array of foods and beverages, and even the possibility of microplastics entering our body through dermal contact.

“Once they enter the human body, microplastics migrate through the bloodstream and reach various body organs, resulting in cellular damage, inflammatory reactions, oxidative stress, energy depletion, or death.  The toxic substances that are present in microplastics such as heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls, and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT can lead to acute and chronic toxicity, reproductive and behavioral problems, and even cancer ” Dr. Apostol added.

The EcoWaste Coalition continues to intensify its campaign against pervasive plastic pollution and its adverse impacts on the environment and human health. Together with other groups, it is advocating for a strong globally-binding treaty that will tackle the entire life cycle of plastic and stem the tide of toxic plastic pollution threatening humanity and the entire planet.

Among other specific demands, the environmental organization is asking governments to ban single-use plastics, ensure a just transition to a circular economy, and adopt essential policies and measures to improve planetary health by reducing the amount of plastic waste in the environment by addressing the upstream drivers of plastic pollution, including eliminating toxic and climate pollutants and putting a global cap on plastic production.


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