A Global Health and Environmental Issue

Microplastics, plastic fragments smaller than 5 millimeters, have become a concerning source of environmental pollution and a potential risk to human health.

A study conducted by researchers at Cornell University has highlighted how the intake of microplastics varies significantly among different countries, with particular reference to dietary habits and breathing rates.

In Southeast Asia, countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines lead the global ranking for per capita intake of microplastics through diet.

This phenomenon is mainly attributed to the consumption of seafood, which is a significant source of microplastics due to water contamination.

For example, in Indonesia, the consumption of table salt is similar to that of the United States, but the concentration of microplastics in Indonesian table salt is about 100 times higher, leading to a monthly intake of about 15 grams of microplastics.

Beyond dietary intake, the inhalation of microplastics is another route of exposure.

China and Mongolia are among the countries with the highest rate of microplastic inhalation, with more than 2.8 million particles breathed per month per resident.

The inhalation of microplastics is also significant in the United Kingdom, although specific data has not been provided.

The accumulation of microplastics in the human body is a critical indicator of plastic pollution and public health risks.

Studies suggest that microplastics can accumulate in animals, including fish and crustaceans, and consequently are also consumed by humans through the food chain.

To counter this problem, a global approach that includes better water quality control and effective waste recycling is essential.

Additionally, it is crucial to promote public awareness of the importance of reducing plastic use and to support environmental policies aimed at limiting the production and release of microplastics into the environment.

Conclusions

Research on the presence and effects of microplastics is still in a relatively early stage, but the results obtained so far highlight the need for immediate action to protect both the environment and public health.

While data on Italy are not available, it is clear that the microplastics issue is a global phenomenon that requires a coordinated and multidisciplinary response.