Danger on our plates?
A friend’s recent Guardian retweet reminded of my summer holiday when my relatively low-brow reading material contrasted with my Mum’s Chemistry World.
Unhappily for Mum, she spent the week dodging potentially microplastic-heavy sea food. Microplastics are under 5mm in size and found in products as diverse as cosmetics, toothpastes and sythentic fabrics. In the sea they act like sponges and soak-up all sorts of stuff including other marine pollutants which end up inside things – humans – that eat things that mean to eat algae and end up eating microplastics instead.
Happily for me, Mum & I also have contrasting levels of caution so I was pleased to learn “There are still more questions than … answers” and decided to let science take a back seat to my culinary enthusiasm and heartily indulged myself. I feel I made the right choice on reading the Guardian piece it seems that I “would have to eat well over 10,000 mussels a year” before I came to any serious harm.
Strangely, it’s not the first time this week that I ran across concerns about plastics. Having been glad I never swtiched to drinking water from plastic bottles I had my attention drawn to water from domestic plastic pipes. Different plastic, similar question: what leaches out of it and is it bad for me. My bottled water / tap water mini-dilema (I actually take the same view as I do about my seafood) took me to the websites of US National Center for Biotechnology Information and the American Water Works Association. Unfortunately, both articles are way over my head and outside of my subscription. Nevertheless the exerpts highlight the fact that there’s lots of research being done, there’s definately an issue and the jury’s still out on what that means in terms of harmfulness to people.
Actually,it turns out that having a week bookended by plastic related concerns perhaps shouldn’t seem as strange as it does; five years ago Scientific American beat me to the news that plastics have conquered the world and “lab-synthesized plastics have virtually defined a way of life”. (oops, must have been in the pub that … plus the intervening 5 …).
One of the many things about plastic is that it’s actually quite new and it’s only really been in the last 70 or so years that commercial production has taken off. Also I really should say “plastics” because there are so many different types and people in commerical and academic labs make new ones all the time. Interesting stuff, plastic. By which I mean: it’s new-ish, there are lots of different types and if the scientists who are working on understanding the safety impact of many of its many varieties don’t know what they’re going to find – what hope have the rest of us?
As a private individual, I at least want to know which plastics are where – be it on my dinner plate or in the fabric of my flat. I want to know so I can do a bit more of the above “investigating” as and when I have the time, or when some new evidence emerges and I want to understand its implications; I don’t want to wait for legislators to save me – I like being on the front foot.
As a professional, I don’t manage a supply chain but if I did, I wouldn’t be overlooking this