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Avoid These Meats Because of Too Much Plastics in Them

Collecting water samples contaminated with microplastics, plastic pollution

Avoid These Meats Because of Too Much Plastics in Them

Anyone familiar with the kitchen knows that when preparing a home-cooked meal, there are many aspects to consider. What type of meat is healthy for you and your family? How processed is the meat? Will it pair well with the other foods on the dinner table? How about the questions of grass-fed, organic, and more?

Many people, however, do not consider another aspect of consuming meat (or many other foods in our diet): the unsuspecting microplastics that sneak into our food. What are they? How do they get there, and what can we do about it? These are all things you should know about microplastics in meat. (After this article, check out our list of the worst foods for your health.)

To compile a list of things you should know about microplastics in meat, 24/7 Tempo consulted multiple sources including published research articles from Bio Med Central and Consumer Reports.

What Are Microplastics?

Close up side shot of microplastics lay on people hand. Concept of water pollution and global warming. Climate change idea. micro plastics concept in food and water or sea
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Microplastics can be harmful to the environment, animals, ocean, beaches, and even humans.

Plastic is ever-present in our society today. While this material was created to be helpful, more and more research has proven that these plastics harm our environment, animals, and even human health. Plastic is an intricate chemical material derived from fossil carbon, such as oil, gas, and carbon. Then, an array of chemicals is added to the carbon-based polymer. However, many of these added chemicals are toxic.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that you may be able to see sometimes. However, you often can’t. These pieces include film, foam, fibers, and fragments of plastics. There are two main categories of microplastics. Primary microplastics are tiny particles, such as microfibers, often used for retail reasons. The second category is secondary microplastics. These microplastics happen when larger plastic items (think water bottles or Tupperware) break down.

The alarming fact about plastic is that it doesn’t break down very easily. It can take up to a thousand years for it to decompose, and in the meantime, the result is microplastics that can be harmful to the environment, animals, ocean, beaches, and even humans.

Types of Harmful Plastics

Bisphenol A written on a page. Chemistry concept.
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BPA is just one type of harmful plastic.

There are several different types of harmful plastics. These include:

  • Bisphenols
  • Alkylphenols
  • (PFAS) Perfluorinated Compounds
  • Brominated Flame Retardants, BFRs
  • Dioxin
  • Phthalates
  • UV Stabilizers
  • Lead and Cadmium

How do Microplastics End up in Our Meat?

Collecting water samples contaminated with microplastics, plastic pollution
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Microplastics appear almost everywhere.

The harm plastic brings to our environment has been common knowledge for many decades. Especially as more and more research data is shared. However, the presence of microplastics in our food may be new information.

How exactly do these microplastics end up in our meat? Microplastics are almost everywhere and in almost everyone. They are not chemicals that are bound to any one product composition. This means they can be effortlessly emitted into the environment. From there, humans and animals can ingest, inhale, or absorb microplastics through many different means.

Microplastics Enter Through Our Environment

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Plastic in landfills eventually leaks into our water and soil.

Unfortunately, our environment is full of plastic trash landfills. These plastics do not decompose easily and eventually leak into the water and soil.

Another way microplastics leak into the environment is during plastic incineration. During this process, chemicals are emitted into the air, making it possible for microplastics to be absorbed or inhaled. Unfortunately, microplastics are so widespread that during each stage (production, use, or exposure) our food may absorb this chemical.

Microplastics Enter Our Food Through Agriculture

herd of hereford cows in green grassy pasture on agricultural farm brown and white cows with white faces looking at camera in the countryside horizontal format room for type beef industry background
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Animals may consume water that has absorbed microplastics.

Since microplastics can leak into the soil and water, animals may consume those same plants or water that has absorbed the microplastics.

The soil is another source that may be continuously contaminated with microplastics.

Microplastics Enter Our Food Through Processing

Conveyor Belt Food.Factory for the production of food from meat.Production line with packaging .Food products meat chicken in plastic packaging on the conveyor.
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Food can absorb microplastics via conveyor belts.

More avenues for the absorption of microplastics include the conveyor belts that move food, the plastic tubing used during processing, vinyl gloves, and even pasteurization.

Microplastics Enter Our Food Through Packaging

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Plastic packaging contributes to microplastics being absorbed into our meats.

Lastly, packaging contributes to microplastics being absorbed into our meats. From metal cans to plastic wraps, there are many types of material that may allow microplastics to filter into our meats.

Types of Meat That Microplastics Are In

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Microplastics can be found in fast food such as chicken nuggets.

Microplastics are in various foods, including fruits, vegetables, and processed foods. When it comes to meat, even small amounts of microplastics have been found in fast food, including chicken burritos, chicken nuggets, whoppers, and hamburger patties. Microplastics have also been found in ground chicken, corned beef, franks, Italian sausage, turkey breast, ground beef, smoked sausage beef, and ground pork.

Possible Effects of Consuming Microplastics

Endocrine disruptors poster
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Microplastics are endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

While more research needs to be done, there are possible negative health effects of consuming microplastics. Adverse health effects may occur even with a small amount of microplastics.

Microplastics may lead to adverse health effects because they are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These pervasive chemicals damage human health by disrupting the human hormone system. When this happens, adverse health effects include possible cancers, diabetes, reproductive disorders, obesity, male reproductive congenital disabilities, increased risk of premature birth, cardiovascular disease, infertility, renal disease, and neurological impairments of unborn babies and young children.

Food is Not the Only Culprit

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Microplastics can be found in cosmetics.

It’s hard to keep microplastics at bay, as they seem to be everywhere. Food is not the only culprit. Microplastics can also be found in:

  • Cosmetics
  • Cleaning products
  • Table salt
  • Trash
  • Clothes
  • Fabrics
  • The ocean
  • Dust

How to Limit Exposure to Microplastics

Blue water filter jug and glass on table in kitchen
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Drinking filtered water can help limit microplastic exposure.

Although all the information on microplastics may seem disheartening, there are action steps to limit exposure to microplastics. It is important to remember that our bodies do expel levels of microplastics. However, since microplastics are almost everywhere and may be cumulative, it’s a good idea to brush up on limiting exposure. Here are a few ideas:

First, try to stay away from single-use plastics such as straws and water bottles. Additionally, when you need to store and heat up your food, opt for a material other than plastic, like glass. Since microplastics can be present even in dust, cleaning often can reduce their presence in your home.

More ideas to help limit microplastic exposure include using plastic-free cosmetics, wearing natural fibers for clothing, and drinking filtered water.

Although time and again, evidence has shown that human inventions can harm our environment and health, becoming conscious of the effects and limiting exposure to microplastics can help protect you and your family against adverse side effects. (Next, read our list of foods once thought to be healthy.)

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