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Swallowing A Credit Card: Malaysians Ingest Alarming Amounts Of Microplastics Daily

Swallowing A Credit Card: Malaysians Ingest Alarming Amounts Of Microplastics Daily

A groundbreaking study reveals that Malaysians are ingesting microplastics at an alarming rate of 502.3mg per person daily—equivalent to swallowing a credit card’s worth of plastic every ten days.

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In a startling revelation, a study published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal has found that Malaysia tops the list of 109 countries in consuming microplastics.

These tiny plastic particles, measuring less than 5mm, are entering the bodies of Malaysians at an alarming rate every day.

With Malaysians ingesting 502.3mg of microplastics per person daily, this equates to consuming approximately one credit card’s worth of plastic every ten days.

To put this into perspective, a typical credit card weighs around 5 grams (1g equals 1000mg).

The ingestion and inhalation of microplastics can lead to various health risks.

The study, conducted by Professor Xiang Zhao from the National University of Defence Technology, China, and Professor Fengqi You from Cornell University, United States, highlights the growing concern over the impact of plastic pollution on human health and the environment.

From Sea to Plate: The Invisible Invaders in Our Food and Air

More than half of Malaysia’s microplastic consumption comes from eating fish, a staple of the Malaysian diet.

The study also found that Malaysians inhale an estimated 494,000 microplastic particles daily, placing the country in the top 10 for airborne microplastic intake.

The study’s authors point out that besides Malaysia, other rapidly industrialising Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, are bearing the brunt of this environmental burden.

The increasing levels of plastic pollution, driven by industrial development, lead to the accumulation of microplastics in freshwater and marine environments.

The study sheds light on the various pathways through which microplastics enter our bodies, both through the food we consume and the air we breathe. (Pix: Environmental Science & Technology)

Microplastics enter the food chain when they are ingested by organisms and eventually end up on our plates.

They can also enter the air through the abrasion of plastic materials, such as tyre wear and tear, or the degradation of aquatic plastic debris.

The study warns that mismanaged plastic waste runoff from landfills and open dumping are major sources of microplastics in water systems.

These plastic particles can contaminate freshwater and saltwater environments, dispersing through water currents and air transmission.

Turning the Tide: A Call to Action Against the Microplastic Menace

The authors call for urgent action from governments in developing and industrialised countries to address this growing problem.

They suggest incentivising the removal of plastic debris from freshwater and saltwater environments through advanced water treatment and effective solid waste management practices.

By eliminating 90% of global aquatic plastic debris, microplastic uptake can be reduced by more than 48% in Southeast Asian countries, where the issue is most prevalent.

In addition to the problem, Malaysia is at the top in importing plastic waste.

This influx of plastic waste is driven by economic incentives and the global demand for recycling facilities.

However, improper handling and inadequate recycling infrastructure often result in significant amounts of plastic waste being mismanaged, leading to environmental pollution and increased microplastic contamination.

Confronting Plastic Addiction

As we become increasingly aware of the invisible threat posed by microplastics, it is crucial that we take steps to reduce our plastic consumption and properly dispose of plastic waste.

The health of our planet and our own well-being depend on it.

Adopting a circular plastic lifestyle—where plastic products are reused, recycled, repurposed, and supplemented with sustainable alternatives—can significantly mitigate the impact of plastic pollution.

It also involves making conscientious lifestyle choices to minimize plastic use, such as opting for reusable bags, avoiding single-use plastics, choosing glass or metal containers over plastic ones, and supporting products made from biodegradable materials.

READ MORE: Plogging Movement: Malaysia And Sweden’s Joint Stride Against Plastic Pollution

READ MORE: Cancer-Causing Chemicals Found In Shein Products & How Our Bodies Are Now Full Of Plastics

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