Experts point out the danger of a plastic diet. The plastic that CDMX inhabitants breathe, eat and drink can pose a serious health problem.
Mexico City residents breathe, eat and drink microplastics. Studies by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav) of the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) confirm that we accumulate up to a thousand toxic plastic particles in our lungs per year and eat microplastics equivalent to a mobility card every week.
Plastic diet based on nanoplastics, the potential danger
UNAM and Cinestav researchers published the article “Occurrence and characteristics of atmospheric microplastics in Mexico City”the first of its kind in Latin America, where a sample was collected during the year 2021 at seven CDMX air monitoring stations and microplastics were detected in all samples.
Fermín Pérez Guevara, Doctor of Science, researcher at Cinvestav and co-author of the article, explained that research on microplastics and their possible impacts on the environment and human health is recent, as it began approximately 5 years ago. However, he warned of the risks this could entail.
Microplastics are understood to be plastic fragments smaller than 5 millimeters, these are considered an important source of pollution in the environment, they are present in atmospheric dust along with pathogens, heavy metals and other pollutants that cause and aggravate diseases such as asthma, pneumothorax, alveolitis, chronic bronchitis and pneumonia.
Presence of microplastics everywhere
The Cinestav researcher indicated that microplastics are generated by the friction of plastic materials due to their use or disposal in the streets and landfills, where bottles, bags, masks and a multitude of items wear out to generate microscopic plastics dragged through the air. However, the scientist clarified that, according to studies, it is in the laundry where the largest amount of microplastics is generated, due to the numerous fibers that polyester emits.
According to Pérez Guevara, the real health risk of eating and inhaling microplastics is their potential to become nanoplastics, as they can be vectors of microbiological toxicity.
Sampling – carried out in 2020 – yielded average concentrations of microplastics in PM10 (particles smaller than or equal to 10 microns) and PM2.5 (less than or equal to 2.5 microns). Types of plastic such as cellophane, polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polyamide and cellulose (rayon) were identified, in addition to metallic contaminants such as aluminum, iron and titanium, with Tlalnepantla, Iztapalapa and La Merced being the areas of the Valley of Mexico with the highest concentrations of microplastics.
Warn about the danger of a plastic diet
Environmental organizations, academics and bodies such as the CDMX Environment Secretariat (Sedema) have warned about the presence of these particles in food and beverages such as fish and shellfish, water, beer, milk, soft drinks, energy drinks and other health products. daily.
“Studies on single-use plastics, and in particular on microparticles, show that people put the equivalent of more or less a public transport card or credit card into our bodies every week.”, Marina Robles García, head of Sedema, referred to local legislators in 2021 in the context of the controversy over the ban on single-use plastic in the CDMX.
In this regard, Pérez Guevara pointed out that, despite the restrictions on the use of plastic and the fact that the authorities encourage the use of compostable materials in the capital, the reality is that there are no composting plants.
So far in 2023, the Megalopolis Environmental Commission (CAMe) has warned of two environmental contingencies, the most recent on February 23 due to high concentrations of ozone; while the first was activated on January 1st by the presence of a high content of PM2.5 particles, in which, according to research, there are concentrations of microplastics.
Consequences of the consumption of microplastics
To know the consequences that this plastic diet that involves breathing, eating and drinking microplastics will have on the inhabitants of the capital, Pérez Guevara guaranteed that the studies need to be internationally standardized to have parameters on the origin, evolution and presence of these particles inside the human body.
He also explained that, in the case of Mexico, this process may be even slower, since there is a lack of injection of resources to advance research on micro and nanoplastics, as well as their possible consequences. “If you don’t have the resources, then it’s impossible to move forward.”, he stressed.
- Each year, an inhabitant of the CDMX can consume up to 70,000 pieces of plastic and accumulate a thousand particles in the lungs.
- The microplastics that are breathed in the capital are contaminated with metals such as aluminum, iron, titanium, lead, bismuth and other elements harmful to human health, such as arsenic.
- The pollution generated by single-use plastics affects more than 100,000 marine animals and causes the death of 1 million birds a year.