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Lianne Rood is outraged. The Conservative MP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex posted a video last week on social media, decrying the material used to make her Tim Hortons coffee-cup lid. “I’m done with Tim Hortons until they stop trying to push these woke paper lids that dissolve in your mouth,” she declared in the video, complete with edits showing close-ups of the lipstick-stained lid.

Putting aside the question of this federal politician’s priorities, I would like to offer an assignment for Ms. Rood. Not to worry: it does not involve consuming anything from Tim Hortons – not the plastic-free coffee lids the company is trying out, nor the new pizza, which she also slams in her video.

Ms. Rood would do well to watch the new Canadian documentary Plastic People: The Hidden Crisis of Microplastics. If she thinks coffee lids made from fibre are gross, wait until she gets a load of this movie.

Written and directed by Ben Addelman, Plastic People documents how plastic is not just contaminating the planet, but our bodies. It is present in the food chain and shows up inside us – including in placenta and breast milk samples.

“These babies are being born prepolluted, in a sense,” Toronto-based science journalist and the film’s co-director Ziya Tong says.

A recent U.S. study published in the journal Toxicological Sciences found microplastics in every single one of the 62 human placentas studied. The most common microplastic was polyethylene, used in plastic bags and bottles.

The film shows tiny bits of plastic inside mussels in the Philippines, and explains that it has been found on mountaintops, in the ocean, in rain and in the snow. One U.S. scientist explains that she doesn’t let her kids catch snowflakes on their tongues.

“We are living in the plastisphere,” declares Sedat Gundogdu, who leads the Microplastic Research Group at Turkey’s Cukurova University. His group has found microplastics even in brain tissue removed from a patient with a tumour.

“Without a doubt,” a team of scientists at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) states in the film, everybody has microplastics in their body. “And once these tiny particles are in our bodies, they’re oozing their toxic ingredients on a minute-by-minute basis,” says Rick Smith, an executive director of the film, the president of the Canadian Climate Institute and the co-author of Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxicity of Everyday Life Affects Our Health. In 2020, Dr. Smith wrote an essay for The Globe and Mail in which he stated: “The world is marinating in microplastics.”

Including himself.

“I have microplastics in me,” he wrote, after having himself tested at RIT. As he increased his own exposure to plastics (bottled water, shrink-wrapped food, a new fleece hoodie), the plastic in his system increased.

Remember that old saying, you are what you eat? Well, that applies – even if you don’t realize what you’re ingesting.

Medical studies are pointing to serious health implications, including cancer, heart issues, diabetes and obesity, and calling for further study. The film declares that the plastic in our bodies is also having an enormous impact on fertility, to the point where it projects alarming drops in sperm counts by 2045.

A recent Italian study published in the New England Journal of Medicine raises concerns about the impact of microplastics on cardiovascular health. And the journal’s editorial calls for the reduction of single-use plastics (such as, say, coffee cup lids) which account for about 40 per cent of the plastic that’s produced every year and contribute disproportionately to the accumulation of plastic waste. “The benefits of plastics come at great and increasingly visible costs to human health and the environment,” the editorial states, saying inaction is no longer an option. “The plastics crisis has grown insidiously while all eyes have focused on climate change.”

After a jaw-dropping screening at Plastic People’s Canadian premiere in Vancouver Friday, I came home and looked around my kitchen. There was plastic everywhere. Why can’t I buy an English cucumber that is not wrapped in plastic?

The film tries to offer some hope. Previous generations dealt with dangerous pollutants by banning them. Now it’s plastic’s turn.

Indeed, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution held a recent session in Ottawa, as it works toward an international treaty to reduce plastic production. Talks will resume in November in South Korea.

But plastic is intertwined into pretty much every aspect of our lives. Reducing its use to improve human life will affect our way of life, and everyday sacrifices will need to be made. Beginning each morning, perhaps, with your cup of coffee and its plastic lid – the material that’s really deserving of our politicians’ anger.

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