Each one of us unwittingly consumes as many as 52,000 tiny plastic particles a year, Canadian researchers say.
You may not be aware of it, but there’s a new ingredient in your diet, like it or not: microplastics.
Each one of us unwittingly consumes as many as 52,000 tiny plastic particles a year, according to Canadian researchers. They discovered this by measuring the microplastic particle contents of commonly consumed foods and drinking water. They also estimated how much microplastic we might end up inhaling from the air.
The results are unsettling.”[W]e estimate that annual microplastics consumption ranges from 39,000 to 52,000 particles depending on age and sex. These estimates increase to 74,000 and 121,000 when inhalation is considered,” the scientists write in a study.
“Additionally, individuals who meet their recommended water intake through only bottled sources may be ingesting an additional 90,000 microplastics annually, compared to 4,000 microplastics for those who consume only tap water,” the add. “These estimates are subject to large amounts of variation; however, given methodological and data limitations, these values are likely underestimates.”
So there you have it. Then again, this finding should come as no surprise since microplastics have long been known to have entered the food chain. It simply proves that we are not immune from our polluting ways.
The items in our diet that are most contaminated by microplastics include seafood, but bottled water also accounts for large intakes of minute plastic particles. In addition, we keep breathing in plastics, which raises questions about health.
Plastic pollution has reached endemic proportions worldwide and not only is it an environmental crisis but a health crisis as well. “It’s a crisis that is not only blighting our landscapes and oceans but affecting the food we eat and the water we drink,” Thavamani Palanisami, a researcher in contamination risk assessment at the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom, commented on the study’s findings.
Scientists remain largely in the dark about the effects of microplastics on our health. “The key and serious question before us is: what is the impact of microplastics once they are inside the human body?” explains Anas Ghadouani, a professor of Environmental Engineering who is head of Aquatic Ecology and Ecosystem Studies at The University of Western Australia.
“We know that humans can ingest or inhale microplastics, there is no doubt anymore about this one,” Ghadouani says. “The key question is what happens next? What are the physical impacts of particles travelling inside the bloodstream? Where is the next stop? The human brain? Many questions for scientists to try to answer in a short period of time because this is [an] urgent [matter].”