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New study finds concerning link between microplastic ingestion and dementia — here's what we know

This study and others have shown that microplastics can cross the blood-brain barrier.

This study and others have shown that microplastics can cross the blood-brain barrier.

Photo Credit: iStock

The more we discover about the dangers of microplastics, the more we should ask why we even began using plastic in the first place.

What's happening?

Researchers from the University of Rhode Island recently discovered exposure to microplastics led to a decline in mental behaviors and increased anxiety in older mice.

The study, which was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences and relayed by EarthDay.org, observed changes in mice exposed to microplastics daily over a three-week period. The older mice displayed similar behaviors to those of humans with dementia. Researchers also noted the mice had microplastic buildup around their brains and livers.

While it's important to note these weren't human trials, we should take the learnings from this and other studies regarding the potential health risks for microplastics in humans seriously.

Why are microplastics concerning?

In all its forms, plastic presents a significant threat to human health. It permeates our lives, from food and water packaging to its presence in clothing and on playgrounds, and we're unwittingly ingesting microplastics at every turn. Scientists estimate we may eat 5 grams of microplastics weekly — equivalent to a credit card, according to Bon Appétit. 

This study and others have shown that microplastics can cross the blood-brain barrier, which is supposed to be impermeable and protect our brains from harmful invaders.

Another recent study found the amount of chemicals in plastics could be contributing to obesity. Data also exists that highlights the possible connection between increasing dementia rates and the rate of plastic production

What is being done about microplastics?

U.S. colleges are encouraging young people to join the fight against microplastics. University of Florida students use stickers on reusable bottles to track the number of plastic bottles diverted from landfills.

Unique innovations and discoveries are happening daily to help keep us safer from microplastics. A U.K. startup developed a tool to filter microplastics from laundry wastewater. Scientists recently discovered boiling water as part of the filtering process eliminated up to 90% of microplastics.

Armed with this information about microplastics, you can use this guide to help swap plastics for healthier options. 

Single-use plastics are a great place to start. Switching single-use water bottles for reusable ones can save over 30 pounds of trash and more than $2,500 over 10 years.

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