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Study reveals worrying discovery about microplastic pollution: 'More likely to be ... spread by wind than soil particles'

The UCLA study also revealed that these pollutants harm humans when inhaled.

The UCLA study also revealed that these pollutants harm humans when inhaled.

Photo Credit: iStock

New research shows that wind carries microplastics from wastewater at far higher levels than scientists initially thought. 

As the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering reported, the microplastics studied came from agricultural fields using treated sewage sludge as fertilizers. The UCLA study also revealed that these pollutants harm humans when inhaled. 

What's happening?

Sanjay Mohanty, an associate professor, led the research team that uncovered new evidence about the transmission of microplastics from wastewater. Using portable wind tunnels, they collected sediment samples from fields in Lind, Washington, and published their findings in the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science & Technology Letters. 

"Microplastics' lower density is one reason they are more likely to be picked up and spread by wind than soil particles of the same size," said Mohanty in a university news release. 

He explained: "They also have a weaker liquid bridge-bonding potential — a mass of liquid that holds particles together — than soil particles. These two properties make microplastics easier to lift than the soil on which they sit, which results in the increased concentration of microplastics in the wind." 

Why is this study important?

The discovery of this level of microplastic transmission is alarming because it indicates that wind picks up microplastics 269% more frequently than predicted. 

Even the tiniest microplastics, less than 5 millimeters long, are believed to pose risks to human health when they become airborne. Microplastics have been linked to lung disorders, pregnancy complications, and reproductive organ issues. They are invasive and pervasive in our environment and found basically everywhere we live, work, eat, drink, and breathe. 

What's being done about microplastics?

Ongoing scientific research about microplastics is essential to educating the public about their risks and encouraging the reduction of plastic pollution and production. 

"Our study has the potential to help improve the tracking and understanding of microplastic emissions by enhancing models used for environmental or human health risk assessments," Mohanty said in the report.

🗣️ How much effort are you willing to make to reduce the amount of plastic and toxins in your home?

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🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind

You can choose plastic-free alternatives for everyday products to minimize your microplastic risks. For example, you can utilize reusable shopping bags, drink loose-leaf tea, wear clothes made from organic materials, and heat leftovers in glass rather than plastic containers. 

Also, ask your health professional about adding probiotics to your diet. Research suggests that probiotic-rich foods like yogurt may counteract microplastic toxicity and reduce the gastrointestinal inflammation microplastics cause.

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