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  • Viroqua Plastic Free

Microplastics, Nanoplastics and Toxins! Oh, My!

How do we protect our families from these pervasive by-products of modern living?  April 22 is the 54th anniversary of the first Earth Day and the theme of this year's Earth Day is "Planet vs. Plastics."


Microplastics are what happens when plastic breaks down.  Unlike biodegradable items such as plant and animal products, plastic does not decompose.  Instead, it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces that never go away.  Microplastics are fragments of plastic less than ¼ inch in size.  Because they are so small, they are nearly impossible to clean up once they are in the environment.


Nanoplastics are where things get really concerning because they are virtually invisible and have been found in lots of places where they do not belong – fruit, vegetables, beer, salt, water, air, seafood, meat and tofu.  They are so small that they are able to infiltrate the human body and enter the blood stream.  Nanoplastics have been found in human lungs, blood, hearts and brains.  Babies may ingest nanoplastics in breast milk.


Toxins and plastics are intricately entwined.  Plastic is made from mixtures of thousands of chemicals.  These chemicals can easily leach from a plastic container into the food or liquid it holds.  Most of the over 80,000 chemicals in use in the US have not been tested to ensure they are safe for human use and consumption.  


Here are some helpful tactics for minimizing your family’s exposure to this dangerous trio.


Choose Natural Materials

It has only been since the 1950s that people were enticed by the lure of convenience to switch from tried-and-true materials like stainless steel, ceramic, glass and wood … to plastic.  Not only are these time-tested materials non-toxic, they are able to be reused and repaired.


Avoid Plastic Water Bottles

If you haven’t already done so, swap out all those plastic water bottles for a single stainless steel one that will last.  Water in plastic bottles is loaded with microplastics.  Much of it is treated tap water anyway.


In the Kitchen

Use a wood cutting board, store your leftovers in glass, cook with wooden spoons and metal spatulas in stainless steel or cast-iron cookware, dine on ceramic dinnerware with metal utensils, and drink from a glass or ceramic coffee cup.  Never microwave food in a plastic container.


At the Grocery Store

Try to eat more fresh food, avoid produce packaged in plastic, look for food in glass jars or in cans with BPA-free linings, shop for bulk items at your local food cooperative using your own containers, buy your bread fresh from a local bakery, and if you are lucky enough to have a butcher shop in your area, ask them to put your meat in your own container.


Out and About

Arm yourself with a Plastic Free Survival Kit and you will never be stuck taking a plastic grocery bag or a Styrofoam container of leftovers home again.  Fill your kit with cloth bags for veggies and bread, cloth shopping bags, containers for leftovers, a set of cutlery, and a reusable cup and straw.  You can easily avoid situations where you have no option but to accept plastic.


Clothing and Bedding

Synthetic fabrics are made from plastic.  They are loaded with toxic chemicals.  Other than in California, there are few legally enforceable standards that limit what types of chemicals can be used on fabrics.  Read the labels on items you purchase for yourself, and even more importantly, for your children, and choose products made from natural fibers like cotton and wool.


In the Laundry Room

When synthetic fabrics are washed, they shed microplastics which are swept down the drain.  Most water treatment facilities are not able to effectively filter out the microplastics so they end up in the environment.  Consider getting a filter for your washing machine and line drying your synthetics to reduce the number of microplastics that escape into the air.


Personal Care

We expose ourselves to anywhere from 85 to 126 chemical ingredients in the dozen or so personal care products we use every single day.  According to the Environmental Working Group, industrial chemicals are basic ingredients in personal care products such as shampoos, lotions, deodorants, cosmetics, hair products, shaving cream, perfumes and aftershave.  Seek out companies that make products with natural ingredients, try your hand at some homemade recipes or check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin-Deep website to discover how the products you use daily are rated for safety.


Be Proactive

Share your concern about the overuse of plastic with your local food cooperative or grocery store and ask them to make reducing plastic a priority.  Contact your local and national representatives to let them know you want the production and use of unnecessary single-use plastic reduced or eliminated.  Participate in a beach or road-side clean-up to pick up the bigger pieces of plastic before they have a chance to degrade into microplastics.



The changes you make for your own family may inspire others to do the same.  When you say NO to harmful plastic and its toxins, you are joining in the groundswell that is sweeping the planet insisting upon a sustainable future for the earth and all its inhabitants.  Happy Earth Day!

Local Business Resources

1924 Custom Soapery -

My Wild Child Boutique -



Environmental Working Group – Skin Deep -


New York Health Foundation – Potentially Toxic Chemicals in Personal Care Products


Newsweek - Chemists Warn Bottled Water 100 Times Worse for Plastic Than Thought


CNN - Bottled water contains thousands of nanoplastics so small they can invade the body’s cells, study says – You are What You Eat: Plastics in our Food


Washington Post – Microplastics in Fish, Chicken and Tofu Protein


The Family Handyman – How to Avoid Microplastics at Home


To Dye For by Alden Wicker


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