Microplastics: A Macro Problem

Microplastics are ubiquitous these days. They are found in the air, in the oceans, in the soil, and ultimately in the food and water that we consume. The WWF estimates that people are ingesting 5 g of microplastics weekly – equivalent to the weight of a credit card! Let’s look at what microplastics are and where we might find them, as well as how to minimize future exposure and mitigate their effects.

What is a Microplastic?

Microplastics are defined as plastic particles smaller than 5 mm (0.2 in.). Some, such as microbeads in cosmetics, are considered “primary,” purposefully manufactured at a small scale. Others are formed through the degradation of larger plastic items and are considered “secondary” microplastics.

Microplastics in the Environment

Plastics are not natural substances and cannot be biodegraded. So once created, plastic has nowhere to go, unless it is recycled into a different piece of plastic for another use. Approximately two thirds of all plastic ever created has been released into the environment, where it lives on either as ocean debris, or as micro- and nano-particles in the soil, water, air, plants, animals, and humans.

Ironically, plastics were first produced with good intention, to protect species that were being overhunted for ivory, tortoise shell, and horn. The goal was to ultimately protect our environment. Unfortunately plastics have now become the main pollutant on our planet. Global synthetic plastic production surged 190-fold from 1950 to 2015, with hundreds of millions of metric tons being produced.

Microplastics in Our Bodies

Microplastics are everywhere, so you are exposed more often than you might think. They attach themselves to dust articles in the air we breathe. If you diffuse essential oils in your home using a plastic diffuser, microplastics can be released into the air, as oils can break down plastics on contact. Water and soft drinks stored in plastic bottles can leach microplastics into the liquids they contain. Nearly all packaged foods contain plastic either directly or as a component of the lining. While BPA was phased out of can linings, the plastic polymers that replaced it may be just as bad.

Bags that crisped snacks and chips (and even organic dried fruits and vegetables(!))come in are lined with three layers of plastic polymers, some mixed with aluminum for that shiny look. It’s not just in packaging, however. With microplastics in our soil, they get into plants, and animal feed, and animals, and eventually, us.  A 2022 study found that 80% of people tested had microplastics in their blood.

On top of our exposure through food and drinks, microplastics can also be found in personal care items such as toothpaste, facial scrubs, body wash, shampoo, mascara, lipstick, foundation, face powder, moisturizers, hair spray and more.

What Do Microplastics Do in Our Bodies?

Microplastics can affect a variety of systems in the body including “digestive, respiratory, endocrine, reproductive and immune systems.”

In the digestive system, microplastics can cause direct physical irritation and oxidative stress, leading to tissue damage and inflammation and a variety of GI symptoms. They can also affect the gut microbiome, leading to an unhealthy balance of harmful vs helpful bacteria, and resulting in abdominal symptoms such as changes in bowel habits, pain, and bloating. In addition, microplastics can absorb and accumulate harmful chemicals from the environment. These chemicals, which include persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides, can adhere to the surface of microplastics and enter the body upon ingestion. Once inside the body, these chemicals can disrupt cellular function and contribute to various health issues, including cancer, reproductive disorders, immune system dysfunction, and gastrointestinal symptoms including pain, nausea and vomiting.

In the respiratory system, microplastic-induced oxidative stress and inflammation can lead to symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath, and symptoms resulting from low blood oxygen concentrations, such as dizziness and fatigue. Microplastics can also cause mitochondrial damage in both liver and lung cells.

There is evidence to suggest that microplastics may disrupt hormone regulation (affecting their “production, release, transport, metabolism, and elimination”) and have adverse effects on the endocrine system.  This disruption can interfere with processes such as growth, metabolism, and reproductive health.

The small size of microplastics allows them to penetrate deep into tissues and organs, raising concerns about their potential to cause long-term health problems. Research has shown that microplastics can accumulate in various organs, including the liver, kidneys, and lungs, where they may persist for extended periods. This accumulation can lead to chronic inflammation, tissue damage, and organ dysfunction, with potential implications for overall health and well-being.

How Do We Avoid Microplastics?

While it may not be possible to completely avoid microplastics in our environment, there are things we can do to minimize future exposure and improve our health.


Indoor air typically has higher concentrations of microplastics than outdoor air due to shedding from synthetic carpet, furniture, and clothing. Consider using one or more HEPA filters in your home. Certified HEPA filters remove microplastics and other particles larger than 0.3 microns in size, and some even smaller. If diffusing essential oils, choose a glass diffuser rather than plastic.

Choose natural fabrics rather than synthetics, wherever possible. Wash synthetic clothing on the gentle cycle; this helps reduce shedding of microplastic fibers. Choose products with less (or no) plastic packaging.

Water/Adult Beverages

Single use plastic water bottles are a large contributor to microplastic ingestion, as are plastic straws.  Choose glass instead; we prefer Gerolstiner (still) and San Pelligrino or Mountain Valley (sparkling). You can go a step further and filter or distill your water before drinking.

Very often aperitifs and adult beverages can provide unnecessary microplastics and toxins. When starting a meal, an organic aperitif like Campari made from fermented roots and herbs could be helpful. It enhances lymphatic flow to the liver and improves detoxification when mixed with mineral water as listed above (always in glass).


Minimize plastic packaging wherever possible and shop sustainably. Buy organic produce from Farmer’s Markets and bring your own bags. Bring your own containers to the grocery store so you can buy from the bulk bins without using a plastic bag. Buy whole foods, choosing plastic wrap-free versions whenever possible.

In the kitchen, use wooden or tempered glass cutting boards. A study found that as many as 1,114 microplastic particles were released each time a polypropylene or polystyrene board was used to cut carrots(!) Similarly, avoid plastic utensils for cooking or preparing food.

Personal Care Products

In the late 1990s “microbeads” were added to many soaps and scrubs for their physical exfoliating action. In December 2015, microbeads were banned in the US for use in “wash-off cosmetics” since they were an environmental threat, ending up in lakes and oceans where they were mistaken for food by fish. They are technically not banned in “leave on” cosmetics such as mascara and lipstick. And there are microplastics that fall outside the realm of microbeads.

As recently as 2021, an Italian study verified the presence of microplastics in top brands such as Lancôme, Maybelline, and Sephora. The product categories with the most frequent presence of microplastics included mascara (90%), lipsticks and glosses (85%), foundations (74%), highlighters (69%0 and face powders (43%).

Thankfully, there are companies that make environmental sustainability a priority. A variety of natural cosmetic brands have pledged to avoid microplastics, and they may be a good place to start.  There are also phone apps, such as “Beat the Micro Bead,” that you can use to scan barcodes on products to determine whether the company is using microplastics or not. Other companies have committed to “Zero Plastics Inside” and are certified by Beat the Micro Bead as entirely plastic-free.

Soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, deodorants, and other personal care products can also contain microplastics. Read labels carefully. These are the chemicals to be on the lookout for, as an indicator that plastic is an ingredient in your cosmetic or personal car product:

  • Acrylate copolymer (AC)
  • Acrylate Crosspolymer (ACS)
  • Dimethiconol
  • Methicone
  • Polyamides (PA, Nylon)
  • Polyacrylates (PA)
  • Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
  • Polyquaternium (PQ)
  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG)
  • Polyethyleneterephthalate (PET)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polypropylene glycol (PPG)
  • Polystyrenes (PS)
  • Polyurethanes (PUR)
  • Siloxanes

Nutritional Testing

Antioxidant status

Antioxidants are a group of nutrients that can help fight the onslaught that toxins and chemicals including microplastics inflict upon us. Knowing your antioxidant status can help determine your need.

There are a few different blood or urine tests that you can do to determine your antioxidant status and the ability of your body to respond to the continuous chemical and toxin attacks. High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP) is a marker for inflammation that is often used to determine risk for cardiovascular disease. It can also detect other causes of inflammation such as injury, infection, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. Since microplastic ingestion can also lead to inflammation, this blood test may be useful.

The DNA Oxidative Stress Assay (8-OHdG) measures the level of oxidative stress in the body. A high level on this urine test means that your body does not have enough antioxidants onboard to overcome the free radical assaults from microplastics and other 20th century toxins. You would want to increase your vitamin C intake to help combat water-soluble toxins, and vitamins A and D, and omega-3 fatty acids, to help neutralize the fat-soluble toxins.

Omega 3 fats

Regarding omega-3 fatty acids, they are instrumental in detoxification. Since microplastics often lodge in the fatty tissues of the body, you’ll want to be sure you have plenty of omega 3s onboard. You can test your omega-3 status with the Omega-3 test (blood test).

Hormone tests

Microplastics in the body tend to absorb and concentrate various toxins, acting as hormone and endocrine disruptors. You can test your adrenal hormone function and a variety of  hormones (adrenal, thyroid, and sex) via saliva and blood spot tests.  And endocrine disruption can also affect glucose metabolism, which can be tested via Hemoglobin A1c (HgbA1c).

Immune Status

Finally, LRA delayed allergy tests can identify specific foods and chemicals that are stressing your immune system. The stronger your immune system, the easier it is to deal with environmental assaults on the body.

How Do We Recover?

The first step to healing from microplastic exposure is to limit future exposure, by taking all of the steps outlined above. That will help our body to begin to heal naturally. The next step would be to minimize the pro-oxidant effects of microplastics on our body, by ensuring we take in enough antioxidants to combat the oxidative stress they are causing.  Utilize the testing mentioned above to know where you stand. Consider supplementing with both water-soluble and fat-soluble antioxidants, including nature’s ascorbate (fully bioavailable l-ascorbate powder), and a super multivitamin containing vitamins A and E, among others.  Boost your Omega-3 (EPA/DHA) consumption through food and/or supplementation to further reduce inflammation and promote cell membrane health. Consider additional detoxification supplements for the liver and entire body to help remove toxins.

Boost intake of these foods to help your body detoxify naturally:

  • Leafy greens contain chlorophyll which can help reduce oxidative stress.
  • GGOBE (garlic, ginger, onions, brassica sprots, and eggs) contain sulforaphane, a powerful phytochemical antioxidant that promotes liver and whole-body detoxification.
  • Citrus fruits provide antioxidant vitamin C.
  • Berries provide vitamins and natural antioxidant compounds.
  • Green tea (choose organic loose tea as some teabags contain microplastics) contains polyphenols that have antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties.
  • Fiber from vegetables, nuts, and seeds like chia and flax help support digestion and helpful bacteria in the gut.
  • Healthy hydration will help your body to flush out toxins.

Although microplastics are prevalent in our environment, taking the above steps to keep the bad stuff out and get the good stuff in using the principles of Nature’s Alkaline Way, can help you minimize their impact on your health.