Questions for ‘We all unknowingly eat plastic, which may host toxic pollutants’  

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Although we don’t mean to, we swallow tiny pieces of plastic every day. A new study shows why these ingested bits may be toxic.

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To accompany We all unknowingly eat plastic, which may host toxic pollutants


Before Reading:

  1. There has been lots of discussion about microplastics in the news — in this publication and others. How big a problem does it seem to be, and why?
  2. When people mention “pollution,” what comes to mind? Where are we being exposed to pollutants? And what types of pollutants do you personally find most concerning? Why?

During Reading:

  1. What new thing did the study by researchers in Tel Aviv just uncover? It points to a possible risk to humans. Did the study test humans, animals or something else to arrive at that conclusion?
  2. What type of plastic did Ines Zucker’s team work with? What was it made from? How toxic is this plastic on its own?
  3. What are “weathered” plastics, as described in this story, and why might they be important? How did the researchers mimic weathering in their plastic bits?
  4. The researchers exposed their microplastics to a chemical pollutant. What was it? Why did the team choose this chemical?
  5. How long were the plastics exposed to the chemical? And what was the role of the “nutrient broth” the researchers used in their tests?
  6. According to the story, how did adding the microplastics affect the toxicity of the chemical pollutant?
  7. What caution does Robert Hale offer about interpreting the new findings — and why?

After Reading

  1. Read up on microplastics (there are dozens of stories to choose from at Science News for Students alone). What do you see as the leading source of these tiny plastic bits in the environment? How do you think your food or water could most likely become contaminated? Based on what you learned, what strategy would you recommend to limit the risk of these plastics to people?
  2. This story focused on human risks. What other risks might microplastics carrying chemicals pose to the environment?