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Saturday, 24 February 2024 06:03

[OPINION] Tremble, Microplastics on the Prawl - Okey Ikechukwu

Today, let’s move away from the vaulting national grumblings about hunger, dollar rates, and protests. Let us, instead, look at some emerging global health issues; the final effects of which have not yet been fully determined, or understood. Our bodies, our health and the global ecosystem, are likely casualties. The danger looms for all humanity, because of the wide and continuous penetration of microplastics into our environment, our food and, wait for it, the placenta of unborn babies!

A relatively recent study published in the journal Toxicological Sciences by a team led by Matthew Campen, reported finding microplastics in all 62 donated placenta samples tested. The concentrations ranged from 6.5 to 790 micrograms per gram of tissue. Yes, a microgram is a laughably insignificant one millionth of a gram. But here is the catch: There is a steady rise in the amount of microplastics everywhere. Its likely overall, long-term effect and impact on the ecosystem generally, and on human life in particular, is yet to be determined.

But a few facts are clear so far, based on simple common sense and basic science. The first is that any substance that finds its way into an environment where it does not belong, and where it is not naturally supposed to be, is a foreign body. The second is that a foreign body can cause a mild upset, some disruption, or substantial damage. The third is that a poison does not become a threat to life until it has built up to a lethal dose. As things stand now, we may well be building up enough microplastics in our bodies to create physiological, or even possibly also physiognomic, Armageddon.

The aforementioned research discovered a way of making tissue samples give up whatever small nuggets of plastic are hidden in them. They used a process called saponification, which meant chemically treating the samples and then spinning them in an ultracentrifuge, after which they got the plastic nugget at the bottom of the tube.

Next, they put the plastic pellet in a metal cup and heated it to 600 degrees Celsius. Under this enormously high temperature, gas emissions emerged from the plastic particles. The emissions were captured, as different types of plastic combusted at specific temperatures. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Fractional Distillation, which explains Biafran refinery and our plethora of illegal refineries easy of today, will understand “different types of plastic combusted at specific temperatures”.

The gas emissions were then sent to a device for detecting and analysing the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. It was the device, a mass spectrometer, that broke things further down, even if with alarming details.   

On the matter of the inevitability of radiations, let us go back to what was said on this page on June 5, 2020. Under the caption, “5G Controversy Needs Honest Science”. In an attempt to place some elements of modern science before the reading public while the 5G controversy raged at he time, this column said: “It is a fact of science that everything on earth gives out a definite radiation. It is also a fact of science that what we call “matter”, like a table, or even our bodies, is just pure energy vibrating at a specific frequency. It is the frequency and rate of vibration that creates what we call shape, size, texture, etc.”

The article further said: “These particles also generate small electrical impulses, creating some sort of “field” around objects, even if only at a microscopic/atomic level for some of them. The human aura, for instance, is the result of electrical impulses, which continue from the subatomic level until they emerge as our electromagnetic field. What we eat, how we live and where we live can alter our aura significantly. So, using the term loosely if you like, electromagnetic fields are inevitable for all existents”.

Now, coming back to the issues before us today, the aforementioned researchers discovered that the most readily available polymer in the placental tissue they were experimenting with was polyethylene. This is the thing used for the manufacturing of plastic bags and plastic bottles. It was found to constitute 54% of the total plastics detected in the sample human placenta. The next in concentration was PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) and nylon, at about 10% of the total. The balance was made up of nine other polymers.

For the record, the word ‘polymer’ refers to a class of natural or synthetic substances composed of very large molecules. The large molecule, which are called macromolecules, are just a collection of simpler chemical units called monomers. Thus, many of the materials in living organisms, and which present the basic foundation for many minerals and man-made materials everywhere, are actually polymers.

In the matter under reference here today, some of the microplastics formed by splitting off from larger pieces of plastic. This could be plastics that fragmented over time, due to wear and tear. We may also think of particles artificially made very small intentionally, like the cosmetic microbeads used in facial scrubs.

Several recent studies are now finding microplastics in almost everything we eat today, from meat, fruits, bottled water and many otherwise natural food items. The new tools and methods adopted by the researchers in measuring the microplastics present in human placentas made it possible for what had remained difficult for a long time to be possible. And that is being able to quantify how much microplastic was present in human tissue.

It was no longer a question of researchers counting the number of particles under a microscope, no. The new approach made it possible to adequately quantify things and speak of the number of micrograms or milligrams per plastic under investigation.

The phenomenal increase in the use of plastics all over the world, over the last six decades, has translated into millions of metric tons of plastic waste. This is a general environmental hazard, a specific threat to natural waterways, and also an emerging menace to plant and animal life.

While it is true that plastics, over time, break down from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, as well as other agents of chemical denudation, it is also true that this only accentuates the problem. Some of the plastic ends up aerosolized, making them part of the combination of gases and radiations in the air we breath. Some of it also seeps down into natural water tables and become part of the groundwater we later pump up to drink.

Ingested or inhaled, microplastics still get into our system; and it stays back to create new, and strange, combinations of substances and radiations that lead to all manner of health disruptions. Human beings, aquatic animals, the local chicken out there, and general farm produce, are all in the line of fire. And this is not about to go away.

Many plastic products take between 50 and 300 years to fully degrade into simple elements and original compounds. That is what scientists mean when they say that many plastics have a long half-life; that is the amount of time needed for half of a sample to degrade. The question here for us are these: (1) How long will it take the microplastics everywhere today to fully degrade? What will be happening to us and our environment as this business of being degraded is going on? Is the global health community paying attention?

It is already a fact of science that we all have some amount of microplastics in our bodies. It is also clear that these microplastics should not have been there in the first place. What is not clear, as I write, is what damage it is doing to us and what possibly unmanageable health problems it is brewing without our knowing.

Now that we have some microplastics that can actually cross cell membranes and easily enter where they have no business in the human body, what next? What do you do, or say, about a piece of microplastic that is so small that it is measured in nanometers (that is one billionth of a meter), in a world where we had always assumed that plastics are biologically inert? You cannot have the type of blossoming agglomeration and concentration of microplastics in living human tissues without consequences.

Check out the type of baffling health problems that are springing up everywhere. Early onset of prostate problems in men, inflammatory bowel disease, growing cases of shockingly early onset of erectile dysfunction, colon cancer and inexplicable challenges with the human autonomic nervous system in many highly industrialized countries.

When you now stop to think about the conspicuous presence of microplastics in baby placenta, it becomes completely benumbing. Tissues containing everything needed to form every cell and every organ of the human body, and which had been in existence for less than on year, is loaded upfront with microplastics? And our cheerful production and use of plastics in massive quantities continues. As the researchers said, “… even if we were to stop it today, in 2050 there will be three times as much plastic in the background as there is now. And we’re not going to stop it today.”

So, it looks like microplastics are only a more recently recognized addition to the negative bombardments with which we human beings has resolved to finish ourselves. As was said in the article “5G Controversy Needs Honest Science” nearly four years ago: “… electromagnetic fields … are strongest close to their points of origin …it is open to argument whether any set of radiations will retain their original characteristics in the midst of an altered ecosystem. It is a fact of science that a substantial percentage of human exposure to man-made radiation comes from gadgets, home electronics and medical procedures.” Well, we now have microplastics”.

The article under reference continued: “Some electromagnetic radiations are strong enough to break bonds between molecules and introduce changes in the human DNA. This is what alters certain things in the shape, or functions, of certain cells of the body. Gamma rays from radioactive materials, cosmic rays and X-rays, also known as ‘ionizing radiation’, can do this. We are also being bombarded by denatured food, high-energy radiation/cosmic and intergalactic rays and particles admitted by our damaged Ozone Layer.”

The article said, still: “Radiation particles can pass through our bodies …The radiations can introduce breaks, or damages, in certain chemical bonds in the body. This breaking of chemical bonds distorts the genetic information in the living cells and introduce errors in the formation of certain body parts. The interfering radiations change the original formats of the various building blocks of our body. Skin cancer, for instance, is nothing but a disruption of the processes governing the development of normal skin. These are facts of science. People are advised against having more than one chest x-ray in a year, because a single exposure gives a dose of about 10 mrem. But we are running all over the place and doing full-body CT scans, of which one exposure gives a dose of 1,000 mrem.”

Watch out! Microplastics and harmful radiations are on the prawl.

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