Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

Nine easy steps to… clear your home from microplastics

After shocking new research revealed that we inhale up to 7,000 plastic particles from our clothes, toys and furniture every day, we propose nine simple – and surprising – swaps that can make a huge difference to the potentially toxic charge lurking inside you. House…

Plastic kettle for metal or glass

Louise Atkinson shares simple swaps that can make a huge difference to the potentially toxic charge lurking in your home — including swapping a plastic kettle (pictured) for glass or metal

Louise Atkinson shares simple swaps that can make a huge difference to the potentially toxic charge lurking in your home — including swapping a plastic kettle (pictured) for glass or metal

Most kitchen kettles are made of polypropylene, which releases millions of tiny plastic fragments into the water every time it boils. That’s because plastic breaks down when heated and sheds particles.

A study from Trinity College Dublin found that one mug of tea alone, when made from water boiled in a plastic kettle, can contain more than three million microplastic particles smaller than the width of a human hair (so-called nanoplastics) and more than 10 million tiny plastic fragments can be released in a single boil in a liter of water, adding significantly to the microplastic charge you could inadvertently inhale every day.

Switch to a glass or metal kettle (or a combination of both) instead. A plastic handle and base are ok, as long as the plastic doesn’t come into contact with the boiling water.

Plastic film for beeswax cloth

Clear plastic wrap is useful, but the chemicals needed to make it sticky and stretchy make it unrecyclable, and because it’s fragile, it breaks down into microplastics very quickly. These plastic particles can leach into the food that touches the plastic wrap and are more likely to be released when the food wrapped in plastic wrap is heated (such as in a microwave).

Louise said when reheating food in a microwave, plastic wrap should be replaced with reusable silicone sleeves that don't break down or repel microplastics (file image)

Louise said when reheating food in a microwave, plastic wrap should be replaced with reusable silicone sleeves that don't break down or repel microplastics (file image)

Louise said when reheating food in a microwave, plastic wrap should be replaced with reusable silicone sleeves that don’t break down or repel microplastics (file image)

Foods that contain excess oil tend to get much hotter when microwaved – hot enough to melt plastic containers.

If you are heating food in a microwave, replace the plastic wrap with reusable silicone sleeves (available from lakeland.co.uk) that won’t break down or repel microplastics. Do not let plastic wrap touch your food, but preferably use a plate with a lid.

When packing food for the refrigerator, use beeswax wraps instead (squares of cloth impregnated with beeswax that has a waterproof effect) to extend the life of the leftovers.

Chic Pyramid Tea Bags For PG Tips

Premium-priced tea pyramids are often made of a fine nylon (aka plastic) mesh, which can degrade when dipped in boiling water, potentially releasing microplastics into your brew.

Even apparently harmless paper tea bags often have a crimped edge sealed with plastic-based glue that will corrode your drink and build up toxins in your compost if you dispose of your used tea bags there. Manufacturers claim it’s only a small amount, but if you drink several cups of tea every day, the amount of microplastics can quickly increase.

Go back to good old fashioned loose leaf tea or go for a brand that has folded edges and is sealed with a string or staple, such as PG Tips, Twinings, Pukka, Clipper and Tea Pigs.

Plastic Kitchen Utensils For Metal

Louise recommends swapping plastic utensils for wooden or metal alternatives (file image)

Louise recommends swapping plastic utensils for wooden or metal alternatives (file image)

Louise recommends swapping plastic utensils for wooden or metal alternatives (file image)

When exposed to heat, any plastic utensils can begin to break down and release microplastics into the air or food you eat. Age and regular heating cause the chemical bonds in the plastic to break down and the chemicals are more likely to leach out. While a plastic colander can be relatively harmless for rinsing and draining salad, it’s more likely to destabilize if you use it repeatedly to drain boiling water from pasta or potatoes.

The same goes for plastic spatulas, stirrers, serving spoons and fish slices with regular exposure to heat.

Use wooden or metal alternatives. And keep in mind that using plastic utensils in the dishwasher will accelerate their deterioration, increasing the risk of microplastics entering the water system through the dishwasher.

Ready meal carton for paper or wood

Louise said most ready meals are served in plastic containers, but you can reduce exposure by avoiding takeaway or by seeking out meals packaged in compostable containers (file image)

Louise said most ready meals are served in plastic containers, but you can reduce exposure by avoiding takeaway or by seeking out meals packaged in compostable containers (file image)

Louise said most ready meals are served in plastic containers, but you can reduce exposure by avoiding takeaway or by seeking out meals packaged in compostable containers (file image)

Most ready meals are served in plastic containers, which may leach microplastics into the food during production, storage (especially if the dish contains acidic or fatty foods) and when the plastic containers are reheated.

A 2020 study published in the journal Nature found that microplastics can be generated by cutting plastic packaging with scissors or a knife, tearing it with your hands and even twisting it to open plastic containers, bags or caps.

You can reduce your exposure to microplastics by avoiding takeaways (unless your favorite restaurant uses aluminum containers).

Or look for ready meals packaged in wooden or compostable containers (such as Charlie Bigham’s). Remove any plastic wrap on top before reheating.

When in doubt, transfer the meal to a glass or ceramic plate or dish and cover with a non-plastic lid.

Plastic Toy Car For Wooden Wheels

Louise recommends introducing children to robust, wooden and rubber toys instead of plastic (file image)

Louise recommends introducing children to robust, wooden and rubber toys instead of plastic (file image)

Louise recommends introducing children to robust, wooden and rubber toys instead of plastic (file image)

One of the reasons children are more at risk for exposure to microplastics is because they play with, and even chew, plastic toys and synthetic comforters, ingesting microscopic particles.

Introduce robust, wooden alternatives, preferably made from bamboo or FSC-certified wood, painted with non-toxic paints (find a selection at ethicalsuperstore.com).

Also, swap plastic bath toys for rubber ones (tikiritoys.co.uk) and synthetic duvets for those made of soft cotton.

Nylon rugs for natural fibers

Louise recommends switching from nylon or polyester rugs to natural fibers such as wool, jute/jute, sisal or cotton (file image)

Louise recommends switching from nylon or polyester rugs to natural fibers such as wool, jute/jute, sisal or cotton (file image)

Louise recommends switching from nylon or polyester rugs to natural fibers such as wool, jute/jute, sisal or cotton (file image)

Nylon or polyester rugs can be hardwearing, stain resistant, and brightly colored, but when placed in crowded areas of the home, they can degrade quickly, releasing millions of microscopic plastic particles into the air as feet rub against the pile.

This applies to environmentally friendly carpets and rugs made from recycled bottles.

The amount of microplastics that are shed can affect children more than adults because they are generally more active (thus generating more microfibres) and spend more time playing on the floor, where microplastics can settle in the form of dust.

Start with rooms the kids use the most and switch to natural fibers like wool, jute/jute, sisal or cotton.

Wet wipes for a facial flannel

Louise said it is better to use a cotton cleaning cloth or facial flannel to clean your face than wet wipes (file image)

Louise said it is better to use a cotton cleaning cloth or facial flannel to clean your face than wet wipes (file image)

Louise said it is better to use a cotton cleaning cloth or facial flannel to clean your face than wet wipes (file image)

About 90 percent of wet wipes are reinforced with plastic in the form of finely spun cellulose fibers to keep them from falling apart in your hands.

Studies show that rubbing one cloth by hand and submerging it in water is enough to release more than 1,000 different polyester microplastics into the air and water system.

It’s much better to wash your hands with soap and water, use a cotton cleansing cloth or facial flannel to cleanse your face, and reusable, washable cotton pads to remove makeup.

Old vacuum cleaner for new

Household dust can be full of microplastics – that’s very easy to kick up and inhale from the carpet.

Regular vacuuming will certainly help – as long as you remember to change the filter.

Better yet, invest in a model with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. These advanced filters are designed to remove potential allergens and are also effective at removing microplastics.

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