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🔬 "Microplastic Pollution in the US"

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Table of Contents

Host: Analies Ross-Dyjak
Guest: Dr. Scott Coffin | Research Scientist | California Water Board
Category: 🔬 Research | Microplastics

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[2:22] “We've known about microplastics since 1970. The first scientific recording was published in the journal Science. And there they found microplastics in every sample they looked for in the Gulf of Mexico. And they were particularly concerned about the ability of these plastic particles to act as a Trojan horse for other contaminants that are already out in the environment. And for about 30 years, there was almost radio silence from the scientific community on microplastics.

[3:26] “Here we are in 2022 and we are finally taking the issue seriously. And I think that the way that we got here is that in the past three years, we've learned that […] it's not just an ocean issue, it is an everywhere issue. And in particular, we're finding it in 94% of drinking water samples in the United States, 83% of samples worldwide, we're finding it in people's blood, our lungs, our placenta, we are pooping it out. It's only a matter of time before we find that this may be an issue for human health, because we're all being exposed and we don't fully understand what the health effects are yet.”

[4:13] “The concept of microplastics is really a very basic one to understand. The original concern was that plastic particles can be ingested when they're below a certain size range by organisms in the ocean, and now we understand by humans. And that's really what we define as microplastics. There's no one definition for it. However, we do have a legal definition in California. Basically, anything smaller than five millimeters is considered microplastics. But really, the concern is that when you ingest these synthetic particles, they are reacting with our body's internal mechanisms that typically are able to digest what we encounter. And we can't digest plastic particles. And so they stick around and they can cause toxicity.”

[5:51] “One of the reasons it makes it so difficult to determine what the harm is from these plastic particles [is that] it's not just one thing. It's thousands of different polymers and they are ranging and shapes and sizes, each with their own unique combination of chemicals that are added to them. And often we don't even know what these chemicals are. The regulations in the United States state that above a certain amount of material, I think it's 10,000 pounds, you have to you have to disclose what the chemicals are. Anything below that the chemical industry can make it and they don't have to tell the government or they don't have to tell the citizens what the chemicals are, what they do to the human body or aquatic ecosystems. And so we're being exposed to approximately 300,000 unique chemicals that humans have created and we have toxicity information for about 1%.

[7:55] “The talking point from the industry has always been that plastic is inert, […] meaning it doesn't react. And in a way they're right. When plastic enters the environment, it breaks down so slowly, because it is inert. But inert doesn't mean non-toxic. And that has fooled people, regulators, scientists, the common citizen into thinking that it's safe. And we didn't really start learning that plastics are in our bodies until the past few years. And we didn't need to know whether or not it's inert to be concerned. The average person, whether they know a lot about toxicology or little is going to feel uneasy about having plastics in their lungs, in their blood, in their unborn children. […] We just haven't really started looking for it in the right places until just recently.”

[9:26] “California is addressing the issue from so many angles right now. […] All the way from rethinking our economy, and what it means to have materials flow through a society. All the way down to how do we monitor for microplastics in our drinking water, and what does that mean for our health. And how can we reduce the impacts or mitigate those impacts. We're not just thinking about human health, we're also addressing the impacts to the aquatic ecosystem, the terrestrial ecosystem and other earth system processes. […] The California Attorney General just issued a subpoena against Exxon Mobil for disinformation and manipulating the public into thinking that recycling has solved the plastic issue.

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Google
🕰️ 17 min | 🗓️ 05/05/2022
✅ Time saved: 15 min

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