Articles

The Harm of Micro-plastics

Jan 31, 2021

Photo: Chris Jordan
Artist Chris Jordan is making a documentary about Laysan albatrosses on Midway Atoll and their plastic problem. Watch the trailer

Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise. 

Tablet of Wisdom, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh

February 2021, Christine Muller

All the plastic we use ends up in the environment. “You may think a lot of plastic gets recycled and made into new products, but in fact, most does not. Only nine percent of the plastic ever made has been recycled, and another 12 percent has been incinerated. Scientists estimate that around 9 million tons of plastic make their way from land into the sea every year. That’s like dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute.” (1)

Over time, plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. These small plastic pieces are called “micro-plastics”. Other kinds of micro-plastics are purposefully manufactured for use in cosmetics and industrial processes. Synthetic clothing such as polyester and nylon also release large quantities of microfibers when we wash them. Most of that plastic pollution ends up in the oceans. In many places of the world, micro-plastics constitute a larger part of marine plastic pollution than the enormous amount of visible larger pieces of plastic.

According to a study (2), micro-plastics have been found in all forms of marine life from zooplankton to whales. They have also been found in table salt, honey, sugar, and beer as well as in our drinking water, both in bottled and tap water samples. While the health effects of the toxins from plastic on humans are still unknown, we know that plastic pollution is a major cause of the decline of seabirds such as albatrosses and shearwaters because they feed in the open ocean and mistake the floating plastic for food and even feed it to their chicks! They then die of stomach injury or starvation. We can all help by reducing our plastic use.


(1) Source: Ocean plastic pollution is a problem we can solveMonterey Bay Aquarium: When you visit its website you will find more information about plastic pollution including micro-plastic.

(2) Kontrick, A.V. Microplastics and Human Health: Our Great Future to Think About Now. J. Med. Toxicol. 14, 117–119 (2018). 

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Christine Muller, Piano Teacher

Board Secretary, International Environment Forum

I was interested in environmental issues already at a young age and became a Bahá’í when I was 17, which was the beginning of a life-long study of the Bahá’í Faith. As the environmental crisis was worsening, I began to systematically study climate change at a time when not much information was easily available. I also searched the Bahá’í teachings for a spiritual solution to the climate crisis. At that time, climate change was not known to most people and there were no educational materials available. That’s why I wrote Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change – an Interfaith Study Course, which the International Environment Forum posted in 2009. I joined the Wilmette Institute as support faculty for its Sustainable Development course in 2011 and created its Climate Change course the following year. I served on the board of RI Interfaith Power&Light for nine years and currently serve on the board of the Bahá’í-inspired International Environment Forum (iefworld.org). My academic background is in music and I enjoy part-time piano teaching and playing music. I would have done more in the area of music were it not for the urgency of climate action, but my musical training has helped me to better understand the complexity of the climate crisis. Christine’s articles on BahaiTeachings.orgSee Faculty Bio

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