Microplastics in the Martapura River: Crumbs That Threaten the Human Body

The condition of the Martapura River is getting more and more worrying day by day. Apart from being polluted with heavy metals, the longest river in South Kalimantan has apparently been contaminated with microplastics that are harmful to the human body.

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This astonishing fact was revealed by the environmental organization Ecological Observation and Wetland Conservation (Ecoton) while conducting the Nusantara River Expedition in Banjarmasin.

The Ecoton team’s exploration from August 26 to September 1 resulted in the finding that there were hundreds of microplastic particles in three samples of the City of a Thousand Rivers.

“Samples were taken in the waters below the Benua Anyar Bridge, Proboscis Monkey Monument, and the Floating River Bridge,” said Ecoton Executive Director Prigi Arisandi.

The pollution of the Martapura River was further strengthened by the discovery of microplastic particles in the bodies of fish such as Tilapia, Patin, Seluang and Lais.

Prigi said, the last type of fish contains the most microplastic particles. “There are 135 particles in the stomach of the laiss fish,” he said.

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He added that the discovery of microplastics in fish bodies would certainly become a new threat because microplastic toxins would move from the fish’s body to the human body that consumes fish.

Microplastics, what and why are they harmful to the body?

From Ecoton’s research, microplastics are flakes from plastic waste measuring less than 5 mm that come from the breakdown of plastic waste such as plastic bags, Styrofoam, plastic bottles, straws, fishing gear, diapers and other plastic waste.

Due to exposure to sunlight and the physical influence of tides, this plastic waste will be brittle and break up into small crumbs.

Microplastics include hormone-disrupting compounds so that when they enter the human body, they will affect the reproductive and metabolic hormone systems.

“One of the effects of microplastics in the human body is diabetes mellitus, decreased sperm quality and quantity and early menopause,” said Prigi.

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Further explained that microplastics in water will bind to pollutants in water such as heavy metals, pesticides and detergents in water.

So, what’s the solution? Prigi said that eradication of microplastic pollution can be done by reducing the consumption of plastic waste massively.

According to Prigi, the government could make more binding regulations on this matter, and provide more trash cans so that plastic waste is not thrown into the river carelessly.

“People generally burn garbage, stockpile and throw it into rivers, every year Indonesia throws 3 million tons of plastic waste into the sea through rivers and makes Indonesia the second largest plastic waste contributor after China,” said Prigi.

It has reached the ears of the local government

The results of this research became a topic of serious discussion within the Banjarmasin City Government and the South Kalimantan Provincial Government.

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The Head of Environmental Supervision of the Banjarmasin City DLH Khuzaimi admitted that the city government had never tested microplastics.

For that, Khuzaimi said the government had held a meeting with Ecoton to discuss this issue.

The meeting which also invited a number of academics from Lambung Mangkurat University (ULM) resulted in a number of conclusions. Ecoton team, Clara sent the meeting result.

First, the government and all parties are asked to socialize the dangers of plastics and microplastics.

Second, the government was asked to revise a number of local regulations related to waste management.

Third, the government builds more waste transportation facilities.

Fourth, the government is asked to build TPS in every RT and kelurahan

Fifth, ask producers to carry out Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

Sixth, locating the point of river pollution from upstream to downstream.

Anang Fadhilah