Microplastics, a threat to the environment and human health

15:00 | 15/08/2021 Environment

(VEN) - Along with the welcome effects of its economic growth and higher standards of living, Vietnam is facing a growing threat from microplastics creeping silently into its soil and water environments. These minute plastic elements, resulting from the decomposition of plastics by solar UV radiation, wind, water and mechanical impacts, seriously threaten ecosystems and affect human health.

Plastic waste is polluting the environment and potentially affecting the marine ecosystem

According to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Do Van Manh, Deputy General Director of the Institute of Environmental Technology, consumer goods packaged with plastic materials pose a high risk of microplastic contamination, even in bottled drinking water. Survey results by the World Health Organization found an average of 325 plastic particles per liter in 259 water bottles sampled in 19 regions of nine countries. Marine fish and oysters were also found with an average of 6 and 5 microplastic particles each.

Manh explained that humans may be ingesting microplastics when they eat seafood or fish that have eaten these minute plastics. A growing body of evidence shows human exposure to microplastics through food. For example, studies have found microplastics in beer, honey and salt.

“Chemical additives in plastics can cause toxic effects. Direct exposure to POPs and other chemicals associated with microplastics can affect biological systems and pose specific threats to humans and animals, even at low doses,” he said.

In June 2019, the Prime Minister launched a “saying no to plastic waste” campaign across the country. All ministries, sectors and localities have developed action plans in this regard, especially to deal with disposable plastic products and persistent organic substances. In order to reduce the impact of microplastics on the environment, ecosystems and human life, Manh stressed, all organizations and individuals must strictly adhere to these policies and various laws must be amended to adapt to the growing plastic waste scourge.

In addition, Vietnam needs to promote investment in research and master advanced technologies in the field of materials to replace plastic products and devise effective and sustainable methods of treating plastic waste.

The most efficient method in the immediate and long term is to classify waste right from the source so that plastic waste is separated, collected and treated. The treatment process must be combined with other solutions, from recycling to destroying waste (using biological and chemical methods) and finally isolating landfills so that plastic waste no longer causes harm to the environment.

Minh Ky