Microplastics – UPSC Prelims

  • These are plastic debris smaller than 5mm in length or about the size of a sesame seed.
  • Sources: They can be divided into two main categories according to their source:
    • Primary microplastics:
      • Directly released in the environment as small particles
      • Main sources: laundering of synthetic clothes, abrasion of tyres through driving, intentionally added microplastics in personal care products for example microbeads in facial scrubs.
    • Secondary microplastics:
      • Originate from degradation of larger plastic objects such as plastic bags, bottles or fishing nets.
  • Effects of Microplastics:
    • Microplastics found in the sea can be ingested by marine animals. The plastic then accumulates and can end up in humans through the food chain.
    • Consumption of plastic by humans is harmful since several chemicals that are used to produce plastics can be carcinogenic.
Previous Year Questions:
Q 1.) Why is there a great concern about the ‘microbeads’ that are released into environment? (2019)
(a) They are considered harmful to marine ecosystems.
(b) They are considered to cause skin cancer in children.
(c) They are small enough to be absorbed by crop plants in irrigated fields.
(d) They are often found to be used as food adulterants.
Ans: (a)