Research from the United States and China has found that nanoplastics are also present in soils. Research on micro and nanoplastics has already taken place on their ubiquity in both the ocean and animals, but this is the first to examine them in the context of soil.

The research found that plastics have been accumulating in plant tissue. According to Baoshan Xing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and colleagues in China, “Our findings provide direct evidence that nanoplastics can accumulate in plants, depending on their surface charge. Plant accumulation of nanoplastics can have both direct ecological effects and implications for agricultural sustainability and food safety.”

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Xing points to the excess of plastic waste in our environment as the cause of the nanoplastics that are present throughout plants, “Our experiments have given us evidence of nanoplastics uptake and accumulation in plants in the laboratory at the tissue and molecular level using microscopic, molecular and genetic approaches. We have demonstrated this from root to shoot.”

It’s still unclear what effect this will have on the plants long-term, but it’s yet another implication of the “enormous” amount of plastic waste in our environment.

“Nanoplastics reduced the total biomass of model plants,” Xing adds. “They were smaller and the roots were much shorter. If you reduce the biomass, it’s not good for the plant, yield is down and the nutritional value of crops may be compromised. We found that the positively charged particles were not taken up so much, but they are more harmful to the plant. We don’t know exactly why, but it’s likely that the positively charged nanoplastics interact more with water, nutrients and roots, and triggered different sets of gene expressions. That needs to be explored further in crop plants in the environment. Until then, we don’t know how it may affect crop yield and food crop safety.”

There are products you may be using or habits you may have that contribute to plastic pollution. Learn more about how the use of Teabags, Cotton Swabs, Laundry, Contact Lenses, Glitter, and Sheet Masks pollute our oceans so you can make more informed decisions going forward. There are also numerous simple actions and switches that can help cut plastic out of our lives including, making your own cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, household cleaners, using mason jars, reusable bags/bottles/straws, and avoiding microbeads!

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Read more recent news about plastic waste, including birds ingesting plastic waste, squirrels building nests with plastic, and the excess of plastic waste caused by the coronavirus.

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