Pollution has become a big problem in today’s economy. Microplastics are a type of pollution that is really small and barely visible yet they are found in our bodies, causing a lot of damage. Microplastics can contain toxic chemicals, viruses, and bacteria.
These plastic bits are an issue for humans and wildlife. These plastics are incredibly hard to see, even smaller than a sesame seed, and no more than five millimeters wide. The bits can be found in water, air, and foods leading to their accumulation in human bodies as resources are utilized. The materials within these bits can contain toxic chemicals. Additionally, both bacteria and viruses can attach themselves to the microplastic. Wildlife can also ingest plastic bits through drinking water from rivers or the ocean.
A source of this problem is to lack of recycling and microbeads that are not fully deconstructed by water filters. Microplastics are tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene, which are then added to exfoliants and beauty products like cleansers, and toothpaste. As a result, it is not clear where these tiny particles flourish and if it is at the beginning of the stage of water filtration. Bodies of water are now contaminated with these plastic bits and due to the small size of these materials, it is easy for them to pass right through water filtration systems. After not being removed, microplastics end up in the ocean and Great Lakes which poses a threat to aquatic life.
Scientists have attempted to resolve this problem. So far, they have come up with one solution: using ultrasound waves. The waves can get rid of these tiny bits of plastic located in the water. Scientists have experimented with this technique and have been able to use UV to remove some plastic. Ultrasound waves separate the microbes and other cells in the fluid so it is easier to get rid of the plastic. The main challenge is the size of the microplastic, which is crucial to removing the plastic bits. Smaller bits are harder to get rid of because the ultrasound waves bring them to the center of the flowing water.
This issue can seem small, but if you think about it, it is much bigger than we can imagine. Most microplastics are not removed from water filters or cleared out well and eventually make their way to the ocean and Great Lakes. Ongoing research continues to develop new ways to tackle this issue and resolve the complications as soon as possible.
[Source: Science News Explore]