Seven everyday items filling you up with microplastics

People are being urged to avoid using certain everyday items due to the amount of microplastics they release.

From plastic ice cube trays to tea bags, there are several ‘unsuspecting’ items Brits use daily that are filling their bodies up with microplastics, without them realising.

It comes amid concern around a recent study by University of New Mexico, which found microplastics are so rife they are now being detected in human and animal genitals. 

Nikki Stones, Vice President of Marketing at CleanHub, says: “The findings of this latest study have clearly resonated with many people who are understandably worried for their health, and that of their children. This should be used as a turning point on plastic use and recycling.

“There is no clearer sign that better plastic recycling and reuse, as well as an overall decrease in production, must be implemented to combat microplastics.”

1. Plastic cutting boards

Nikki Stones warns plastic cutting boards are exposing humans to up to 79.4 million polypropylene microplastics each year. Safer alternatives she recommends includes tempered glass or paper fibre chopping boards.

2. Microwavable food containers

Up to four million microplastics released in every square centimetre of some plastic packaging, the expert says. Ceramic or glass containers are safe alternatives to use.

3. Ice cubes (pre-packaged and plastic ice cube trays)

Nikki Stones says: “100% of tested pre-packaged ice cubes contain microplastic contamination, as does freezing plastic trays.” Alternatives to use instead include stainless steel or silicone ice cube trays.

4. Paper cups

While paper cups may seem better for the environment, they need a layer of sealant to hold liquids inside, which often consist of up to 10% high-density polyethylene (HDPE) – a thermoplastic polymer made from petroleum. Instead, Nikki recommends reusable stainless steel flasks or bottles.

5. Tea bags

In 2023, scientists found that one cup of tea contained up to 3.1 billion nanoplastics due to the tea bag. Nikki says people should consider using loose tea leaves in a cast-iron teapot or a metal strainer instead. 

6. Synthetic makeup

In the same 2023 study, researchers also found that only 13% of the 7,000 beauty products they analysed were free from microplastics. In response, Nikki says people should invest in cosmetics with natural ingredients and plastic-free packaging.

As well as brands that offer glass refill programs and look for ethically sourced and natural ingredients, like plant extracts.

7. Polyester clothing

Almost 33% of dust found within a typical home consists of microplastics derived from textiles, and a single load of polyester clothing laundry can release up to 1.5 million synthetic microfibres into waterways. Wearing natural fibre clothing made from cotton or hemp is much better for you.

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