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The Worst Things Come in Small Packages | Raw Egg Nationalist

What do you get when you cross the world’s least popular flying insect and an endless supply of microplastics?

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Mosquitoes can transmit microplastics into the skin and blood of the animals they bite, according to a new scientific study. You probably thought those annoying little buggers couldn’t get any worse, didn’t you? Well, they can.

The scientists behind the study exposed mosquito larvae to microplastics in a laboratory setting and then followed where the pieces went using special imaging technology. At first, as the mosquitoes developed through the early stages of their lifecycle, the microplastics remained lodged in their digestive systems. Once the insects reached adulthood and were allowed to feast on lab mice, some of those pieces were then transferred to the skin and blood of the mice.

As amusing as I found this news, it didn’t come as a surprise. Other studies had already shown that insects including ants and bees transport microplastics quite readily. In the case of honey bees, these microplastics end up all over their hives, including in their honey, which may then end up in us.

Mosquitoes are small, sure, but they’re nowhere near as small as microplastics or nanoplastics, which we’re starting to learn are even worse than microplastics because they can get in places even microplastics can’t. Mosquitoes spend a large part of their lifecycle in an environment—water—that’s teeming with microplastics, and they feed on a liquid—blood—that’s also known to contain microplastics.In short, the new study makes perfect sense.

Any creature that’s larger than the smallest piece of plastic is likely to be able to consume and transmit plastic. It won’t be long, I reckon, until new studies show that ticks and chiggers do this.

Yes, ticks and chiggers can get worse too.

Mosquito biting a person

CDC photo

Our growing exposure to microplastics is becoming a source of considerable worry.Scientists have estimated we may be consuming a credit card’s worth of plastic every week. We inhale it, we absorb it through our skin, and we ingest it in the food we eat and the liquid we drink.

Microplastics have been shown to enter more or less every important tissue in the body, from the gut and lungs, via the blood, to the liver, heart, reproductive organs and even the brain. Recently, scientists were able to show that within two hours of administration, microplastics ended up in the brains of lab mice, bypassing the brain’s sole protection, the blood-brain barrier. That’s not good.

The young, particularly babies and toddlers, are at an elevated risk of exposure. Babies have been estimated to have up to 15 times more microplastics in their bodies than adults, based on analysis of stool samples.Exposure to microplastics begins from the moment of conception, via the placenta and even the amniotic fluid. Babies are then given plastic toys to chew all day and fed plastic-laden processed food using plastic utensils, which they also chew. Once babies become mobile, they crawl around at ankle-level hoovering up microplastic-rich dust that accumulates on the floor and especially in carpets.

We still don’t know what all this plastic is doing to us, but early indications aren’t good. Scarcely a day goes by without a new microplastic study linking these tiny pieces of plastic to everything from serious gut dysfunction, autism and cancer to Alzheimer’s and even, with a little bit of reading between the lines, transgenderism, since microplastics carry harmful hormone-disrupting chemicals like phthalates deep inside the body. Microplastics are also heavily implicated in the catastrophic worldwide fertility decline that could see man unable to reproduce by natural means within the next 20 years if sperm counts continue to plummet at their present rate.

Microplastics

Microplastics (Oregon State University / Flickr)

As far as the human effects of microplastics are concerned, mosquitoes aren’t even worth worrying about. Nobody’s exposure via mosquito bites is going to outstrip their exposure from simply living in a house full of plastic stuff. But the new mosquito study does draw our attention to another aspect of the microplastic phenomenon that we should worry about.

Microplastics display complex interactions with natural systems. The researchers behind the new study discovered that microplasticschanged the mosquitoes in waysthat may havesignificant and unpredictableknock-on effects. As well as affecting their growth rates, microplastics altered the composition of the mosquitoes’ gut bacteria and increased their resistance to common pesticides.

Microplastics reduced the lethality of pyrethroid compounds by half, from 97.77% to 48.88%. A stunning decrease, by all accounts.

The microplastics inside the mosquitoes appear to absorb these compounds, which prevents them from having the intended effect. Microplastics have been shown to absorb other compounds, including testosterone in the human body. Clearly, the presence of microplastics in the wider environment—in the lakes and ponds that mosquitoes infest—could make it harder to controlthem. That means more disease. It also means more insecticides will be used. And more insecticides means more harm done to other living creatures, not just other insects but also larger creatures, including humans.

Until recently, pyrethroid insecticides were thought to be largely harmless to humans, but new evidence, from the US, has shown that people with higher levels of exposure are up to 56% more likely to die from any cause and three times as likely to die from cardiovascular disease as people with the lowest levels of exposure.

I also mentioned that microplastics altered the composition of the mosquitoes’ gut bacteria, and that could also have interesting consequences. Among the species affected by the presence of microplastics were Wolbachia, parasitic bacteria that are being deliberately introduced into wild mosquito populations to reduce their ability to transmit disease, particularly dengue fever.

A mosquito

Alvesgaspar / Wikimedia Commons

In local trials, this has been wildly successful. In Singapore, for example, cases of dengue were reduced by 88% in a single year after mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia were released, and similarly large reductions have been observed in trials in nearby Indonesia and in Brazil. Scientists believe Wolbachia might be effective against other mosquito-borne diseases, including zika and malaria. But microplastics could end up compromising such efforts in the long run.

Microplastics add complexity to natural systems in other ways we’re only beginning to understand. We know, for example, that the presence of microplastics in the soil increases the uptake of heavy metals and other harmful compounds by plants. We know that microplastics make bacteria and fungi like Candida albicans more infectious. We know that microplastics create biofilms that make it easier for microorganisms to exchange genetic material, including genes that code for resistance to antibiotics. We’re beginning to suspect that microplastics can increase production of gases like methane from agriculture, by altering the composition of soil microbes—an effect that might get climate zealots to pay attentionto the problems of plastic waste, not that we want them hijacking the issue.

Mosquitoes and microplastics may be tiny, but that doesn’t prevent them from having huge consequences. Sometimes, the worst things come in small packages.

This op-ed features opinion and analysis from Raw Egg Nationalist, the popular health and fitness author recently profiled in the Tucker Carlson Originals documentary, “The End of Men“. His book, The Eggs Benedict Option, is available on his website and from popular book sellers, and his magazine, Man’s World, is available online.

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Raw Egg Nationalist
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Raw Egg Nationalist is the popular fitness and health author profiled in the Tucker Carlson Originals documentary The End of Men. His latest book, "The Eggs Benedict Option", is available now.

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