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Words Matter: Surrounded by Plastic

Written by Sonal Mohan Edited by Jessica Li and Yashaswini Meduri Graphic by Bipasha Patel Plastic has a chemical called bisphenol, or BPA, which can be digested. This dangerous chemical increases risks for heart disease, diabetes , and lung cancer for humans, and damages the brain and reproductive systems of animals. BPA is commonly used in packaging food, such as in wrappers, bag linings, can linings, and plastic boxes. Its proximity to the foods we eat is only increasing contamination. In addition to everyday groceries, plastic can also be ingested through meat. If our oceans are polluted with an overwhelming 8 million tons of plastic annually, there is a high chance that crustaceans, fish , and other seafood consume it and pass the plastic down the food chain. The impact of plastic in our oceans is not restricted to just the water; it intrudes into our daily lives more than you would think. When you breathe, you are inhaling thousands of microplastics into your lungs. As miniscule particles, plastic gets blown with sand and wind. Microplastics were even found in the Arctic and the Swiss Alps. The particles in water run through the water cycle and precipitates, essentially “snowing plastic.” The harm that plastic does to our Earth is serious as it, reaches remote lands that are depopulated and spreads pollution everywhere. A study at Rutgers University tagged exposed pregnant rats to tagged plastic particles. It was observed that the plastic went through the mother’s lungs, her body, her placenta , and to the developing pup. To make matters worse, plastics may be able to intrude into the foundation of life. If plastics get small enough, reducing to nanoparticles, cells may allow them to diffuse through cell membranes. Organs could absorb plastic into their cells, introducing dangerous health implications.

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