Plastic is all around us. Bagging our groceries, packaging our foods, boxing our products — plastic is everywhere, and unfortunately it’s soaking into our skin as a result. There is even research that shows you eat about a credit card’s worth of plastic each week. That’s insane.
But, is it harmful? The truth is, we actually don’t know what all the long-term effects of plastic are on our health. The ubiquity of plastic is relatively new in society, therefore research on the prevalence and effects of plastics in our bodies is new, as well.
In 2018, the European Union started an initiative to study microplastics and nanoplastics (smaller versions of microplastics). Similarly, the World Health Organization has been releasing reports on plastics since 2019. That’s only a few years of dedicated research from the world’s biggest research facilities.
Here’s the worst part for us, though: all the plastic that’s ever been produced is still on the Earth today (plastic usage began in the 1960s), which makes microplastics hard to avoid. What’s worse, only 5-9% of that plastic is recycled. All the rest of that plastic is sitting in landfills, floating in the ocean, and drowning out ecosystems.
How is it getting into our bodies?
Plastic may not be biodegradable, but it does still break down into smaller and smaller pieces. These microplastics seep into water sources and soil, and we end up ingesting them accidentally. Research shows that we’ve found microplastics in human lung tissue, blood, stool, colons, placentas, and even breast milk.
The side effects of ingesting microplastics
We may not know the long-term effects of ingesting a credit card’s worth of plastic each week, but we do know some things about the potential risk. Over 10,000 different chemicals are used to change the properties of plastic. These chemicals perform various tasks like making plastic harder, more flexible, and even powdery (like makeup).
The chemicals are also known endocrine-disruptors, which alter our body’s ability to regulate our own hormone function. Disruptions in regular hormone function can lead to inflammation as well as many other health issues.
How to avoid microplastics in everyday products
Instead of resolving to make drastic switches to everything you’re currently doing, start with just one swap. Since the skin is the largest organ in the body, and absorbs all the toxins it comes in contact with, this is a good place to start.
Look at the products you use on a regular basis. Many self-care products can be filled with endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Thankfully, more products are now on the market made with more natural ingredients, or lower quantities of these potentially harmful chemicals. Look for products that are BPA and paraben-free to start, like Thrive Causemetics or BeautyCounter (featured in my Holiday Gift Guide!). Small changes can make the biggest difference!