Origin of the word
The word micro comes from the Greek ‘mikros’ meaning ‘small’, while plastic originates from Latin ‘plasticus’ or from Greek ‘plastikos’ meaning ‘able to be moulded, pertaining to moulding’.
Microplastics are a type of debris that originates from cosmetics, industrial processes and clothing. These are minuscule particles of plastic that can be found in products such as toothpaste or exfoliating face washes which are washed into sewage systems after use. Microplastics pose an environmental problem as they are often found in the marine environment amongst aquatic creatures that ingest the fibres while predominantly feeding on microscopic organisms. These marine creatures are affected by the microparticles as they can be biologically integrated into their tissue. This can in turn lead to contamination that results in human exposure to microplastics.
It has been reported that microplastics are beginning to be embedded in the flesh of fish which are consumed by humans. According to a study by Scientific Reports, 36 microscopic pieces of plastic have been discovered in the bodies of 120 mackerel, mullet, anchovies and other fish. Poisons could be released into people’s bodies after ingesting the fish due to the fact that the plastics attract toxins in the environment.
tiny plastic beads used in products such as shower gels and facial scrubs to aid cleaning
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.