【明報專訊】THE plastic revolution has revolutionised human lives. But it has also brought about the problem of pollution. According to a latest study conducted internationally, the water people drink every day contains microplastic invisible to the naked eye. Microplastic pollution has become a new environmental topic in recent years, with more and more people concerned that microplastic can enter the food chain — and then the human body — and potentially harm human health. The impact of microplastic on the environment, ecology and the human race, like that of global warming, might not be clear until many years later. That, however, does not mean that we can pay little regard to the problem and sit on the sidelines before scientists reach a consensus or conclusion. The SAR government should investigate the situation in Hong Kong as soon as possible. It should also learn from the experience of other countries and consider banning products containing microplastic through legislation.
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"In misfortune lurks fortune, in fortune lurks misfortune," as the saying goes. The industrial revolution in the 18th century greatly enhanced human live. But it also sowed the seeds of global warming, a problem we are faced with nowadays. The plastic revolution, which began in the late 19th century, enabled manufacturers to produce all sort of high-quality but cost-efficient merchandise with a cheap, artificial material. While this has benefited ordinary people, it has also brought about the problem of plastic pollution. Microplastic refers to microscopic plastic particles or fragments that measure less than five millimetres in diameter or length. It comes from three major sources. The first is plastic purposefully manufactured as "super small" ones, which are normally found in cosmetic products, facial cleansers and toothpastes. The "microbeads" in some face scrubs are in fact microplastic. Another major source is fragments crushed off big sheets of plastic, which the oceans are mostly littered with. The last is microplastic dusts that come from daily wear and tear, such as those produced when tyres are rubbed against road surfaces.
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In the past, scientists' focus was mainly on how the oceans were polluted by microplastic and how it was swallowed by fish and entered the food chain. The latest study, however, shows that it was a long time ago when microplastic began to exist in water resources for humans. Not only do we swallow microplastic by eating fish, but we are also drinking it directly. 80 per cent of water samples taken by researchers from twelve countries were found to contain microplastic. Although Hong Kong and mainland China were not within the scope of the country, we can hardly believe that the two regions can be isolated from the problem. The Environmental Protection Department must give proper regard to this problem and find out more about the situation in Hong Kong as soon as possible.
ENG audio 3
Currently, scientists know little about what kind of impact on health will be brought about by microplastic that accumulates in the human body. However, as toxics such as residues of DDT, a pesticide, are often attached to microplastic, people are inevitably worried about its harm in the long term. Faced with this new environmental topic, the environmental protection authorities in Hong Kong should not take a hands-off approach on the pretext that the World Health Organisation has not yet prescribed an acceptable level of microplastic content. It is the responsibility of all humans to protect the environment and reduce the use of plastic. The government should not only increase awareness of the issue but also learn from the experience from places like Taiwan and South Korea and consider banning products that contain microplastic through legislation so as to make a contribution to reducing microplastic.