Researchers have shown through a study that microplastics are causing an increase in the toxicity of organic pollutants in the environment by a factor of 10.
A new study by Tel Aviv University researchers found that in a marine environment, microplastics absorb and concentrate toxic organic substances thereby increasing the toxicity of organic pollutants that in turn may lead to a severe impact on human health. The study was recently published in the prestigious journal Chemosphere.
Microplastic is a general name for plastic materials that appear in a configuration of particles and microscopic fibers the size of tens of microns and up to a few millimeters. Microplastics are found almost everywhere: in wells, in soil, in food products, in water bottles, and even in glaciers at the North Pole.
The researchers explain that since plastic is not a natural material, it decomposes very slowly in nature, in a process that sometimes endures for thousands of years and, as part of this process, the same microplastics are formed. Throughout the process, the microplastic particles encounter environmental pollutants that attach to their surface, and as a pair, they may pose a threat to the health of the environment and to humans.
In the study, the researchers examined the entire process that the microplastic undergoes, from the interactions it has with environmental pollutants to the release of the pollutants and the creation of increased toxicity. The researchers found that adsorption of those organic pollutants to the microplastics increases toxicity by a factor of 10 and may also cause severe impact on humans who are exposed to contaminated food and drink.