6 Ways To Avoid Microplastics, Because Research Shows They’re Everywhere

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Microplastics are small bits of plastic that end up in our waterways worldwide. Plastic debris from discarded industrial plastic products, from old water bottles to shampoo containers, is a major source of global pollution, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says. While plastic pollution is an international concern, microplastics are a different kind of environmental contaminant. Less than five millimeters in length, according to the NOAA, microplastics not only contaminate our oceans and rivers, they might also be a significant contributor to air pollution, The Guardian says. While the study of these tiny plastic particles is still an emerging field, understanding how you can avoid exposure to microplastics, may help protect your health in the long run.

Microplastics are also showing up in snow across the globe, WIRED reports. Scientists say that microplastic particles number as high as 150,000 per liter in Bavarian snow. The more isolated Arctic regions recently showed readings of about 14,000 microplastic particles per liter. Researchers say that global winds might carry the sesame seed-sized plastic particles from region to region, resulting in widespread air, soil, and snow contamination, WIRED says. While scientists are only beginning to understand how widespread microplastic pollution is, and what to do about it, there are steps you can take that may minimize your exposure. Here are six ways to avoid microplastics.

1. Filter Your Tap Water

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According to Tapp Water, researchers say that microplastics are in as much as 94% of U.S. tap water, and 72% of tap water in Europe. Filtering your water can reduce your intake of microplastics, based on a review of various water filter brand specifications, ConsumerLab says. Most carbon block water filters can remove microplastics, and biodegradable coconut shell-based carbon block filters may also be effective, says Tapp Water.

2. Avoid Plastic Containers

Plastics take a long time to break down, and microplastics are a result of that process, writes Global Citizen. By avoiding the use of plastic containers like water bottles whenever possible you can help keep plastics out of landfills and lessen your consumption.

3. Avoid Beauty Products With Microbeads

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Microbeads are small pieces of plastic added to some health and beauty products, such as toothpastes and facial scrubs, NOAA writes. By limiting or avoiding products with microbeads, you can help discourage manufacturers from using them while reducing your own exposure to plastics.

4. Air Dry Your Clothes

Studies show that washing and drying synthetic fibers may release over 700,000 microplastic fibers into the environment, The Guardian reported in 2016. The Plastics Pollution Coalition says that air drying clothes, or simply reducing their time in the dryer, can help cut back on microplastics produced by clothes washing.

5. Try To Limit Eating Meat & Fish

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Researchers say that microplastics are eaten by marine life and some land animals, such as chicken, The Conversation writes. Since microplastics seem to be entering the food chain, limiting your consumption of meat and fish, if you can, may help reduce your exposure.

6. Stick With Non-Synthetic Clothing Fibers

Synthetic clothing fibers may significantly contribute to microplastics pollution, EcoWatch says. If you can, buying clothes made of natural fibers, such as cotton, can help. The Guppyfriend bag is also a potential solution, EcoWatch says. The Guppyfriend, collects the fibers that synthetic clothing sheds during washing, so that microplastics don’t end up down the drain.

While the issue of microplastics pollution worldwide can feel overwhelming, know that there are simple steps you can take to help reduce your exposure. Even if you can’t hit every item on your environmental hero to-do list, know that any effort you make to help lessen plastic consumption can make a difference.