Plastic was invented in 1907, but it wasn’t until after WWII that the market for plastic began to grow significantly. Back in the 1950s, the world produced ~1.5 million tons of plastic annually; by 2017, that number increased to more than 300 million tons.

  • In the U.S. and most areas of the globe, plastic use has skyrocketed to the point that it’s everywhere … impossible to avoid.

  • Stop and think about the number of times in a single day you are confronted with an option to purchase something made of plastic or protected by plastic.

  • We rely on the convenience plastic offers; however, the rise in use now has us considering if we are trading our health and the health of our children/grandchildren for its convenience.

  • Plenty of documentation leads us to conclude that plastic overconsumption is taking control of our oceans and freshwater, damaging our environment, harming marine and other wildlife, and infiltrating our air. Still, we haven’t considered the damage to our bodies … that is … not yet.

  • New studies have demonstrated the presence of microplastics in human blood and organs (lungs) that are particularly concerning.

  • Maybe it’s time to wake up and change our purchasing practices and use of plastic.


It’s shocking, but nearly every piece of plastic ever generated by humans still exists today! And we’re creating much, much more! In fact, plastic waste is expected to triple by 2060. Plastics fill our world and pollute the air, soil, freshwater and oceans. We’ve only recently become aware that they can also enter the body and cause harm. 

What are microplastics?
Microplastics are those tiny particulates of plastic measuring less than 5 mm in size, the size of a sesame seed and smaller. Much of it ends up in our waterways and oceans. The small pieces aren’t easily visible in water and they will either sink or float, depending on what they’re made of. Microplastics (e.g., polypropylene, polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate) are lighter than sea water and will float and disperse across our waterways. Particles like the fabric acrylic are denser than sea water and just passively accumulate in the deeper parts of the ocean. The hadal zone, the deepest part of the ocean, can be described as one of the largest microplastic sinks on Earth.

Microplastics are thought to account for approximately 99% of the plastics in our oceans and waterways. When these particles are mistaken for food and consumed by marine life, they can absorb toxins. It’s easy to imagine then how passively they can be carried through the food chain … all the way up to us.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

How do we inhale microplastics?
Plastic microfibers originating from, for example, synthetic clothing, furniture and carpets end up in the air. It has been estimated that for every 44 pounds of household dust produced on average annually, about 13 are microplastics. Also, outdoor air consists of microplastics due partly to car tires’ wear and tear. 

How do microplastics get into the human body?
Microplastics can enter the body through the food and drink you consume, the air you breathe (microscopic plastic bits circulating in the air), and they are even present in rain.

Once in the body, how do microplastics affect it?
Microplastics can carry a range of contaminants (e.g., potentially harmful organic chemicals) that can leach from the plastic surface once in the body, increasing the potential for toxic effects.

The long-term health consequences of microplastic pollution remain largely unknown; however, in terms of human health, research has suggested microplastics may provoke immune and stress responses and induce reproductive and developmental toxicity once they enter and persist in the body. (learn more)

How can we test for microplastics in the body?
It is possible to test for the presence of microplastics in the body and has been done using a procedure called flow cytometry and computer analysis; however, given that testing is relatively new, there are likely additional methods for testing that are yet to be confirmed.

How can microplastics be removed from the body?
Larger plastic pieces can leave your body through the natural process of elimination; however, smaller particles can actually be absorbed into your body and are toxic. Because we are just learning more mircoplastics absorption into the body, it will take time to determine how/if these particles can be eliminated.

How can humans reduce the number of microplastics that can get into the body?

  • Bring an eco-friendly water bottle, food container and bag with you whenever possible
  • Consume more fresh food vs. settle for prepackaged, convenience foods
  • Avoid synthetic fabrics (including fabric made from recycled materials, as well as polyester, nylon, etc.); choose natural fabrics like cotton, linen and wool instead
  • Challenge yourself to devise creative ways to consume less plastic daily as you wean yourself from plastic (use glass or steel containers for storage vs. plastic, reuse packaging, etc.)
  • Pay attention to and put your plastic waste in the correct recycling bin; follow the rules for recycling based on where you live
  • Reduce use of products (e.g., facial cleansers and toothpaste) that contain microbeads
  • Overall, reduce the use of plastic and either reuse or recycle what you choose to consume

Become part of the solution / Reduce the use of plastic in daily life

Using the list below, take note of 1-3 plastic sources you’d like to work toward reducing or eliminating in a week or month and then take steps to curb your use.

__ Produce (plastic bags, bagged vegetables and lettuces, vegetables in “clamshell”
containers, etc.)
__ Fresh seafood and meat
__ Dairy (milk, yogurt, butter, cheese, eggs, etc.)
__ Snack packs and protein bars and other snack items
__ Cereal, crackers, cookies, chips, candy and gum
__ Jams, jellies, nut butters
__ Bread and bakery items
__ Water, soda, specialty beverages
__ Deli items and hot/cold food bar items
__ Condiments and spices
__ Pasta, packaged dinners, soups
__ Baking items
__ Frozen foods (entrees, meat and seafood, pizza, ice cream, vegetables, breakfast
items, etc.)
__ Disposable cups, dinnerware, flatware
__ Paper products (toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, etc.)
__ Household cleaners, laundry detergents, dishwasher soap, air fresheners
__ Personal care items (shampoos, conditioners, mouthwash, skin care, oral care, first
aid, pain relief, feminine care, shaving, vitamins, etc.)
__ Diapers, wipes, baby food
__ Pet food and treats; cat litter

Disposing of Plastic Isn’t as Simple as You May Think

Each type of plastic is different: some are reusable, others can become more toxic with reuse, some are easily recycled, and others cannot be recycled because there is no buyer for them (in this case, the recycling center has to pay a hauler to take what isn’t recyclable to the landfill).
To find out what’s recyclable, pick up any plastic container (water bottle, frozen food tray, instant noodle cup, deli or takeout container, etc.) in your kitchen to locate a number on its back or bottom. This number indicates the type of plastic used to make the product you hold. Then, check on the recycling rules for your community. 

Three Important Things to Remember!

Memorizing the seven different types of plastic found in the chart above can be overwhelming, so here are several key points to remember:
  • Though it varies between types, every single category of plastic could leach hazardous materials if put in an extreme situation (e.g., heat).
  • Three types of plastic that are considered safer options among the others are Polyethylene Terephthalate (1-PETE), High-Density Polyethylene (2-HDPE), and Polypropylene (5-PP). These are also the types of plastic bottles and containers that can be recycled at Sedona Recycles.
  • Although the experts are currently working on inventing the best ways to recycle all types of plastic, the two types that are most commonly picked up by most recycling programs are Polyethylene Terephthalate (1-PETE) and High-Density Polyethylene (2-HDPE).

Check with your local recycling center to understand their guidelines and consider not purchasing products housed in plastic that cannot be recycled.