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BTW, You’re Eating And Breathing In Plastic Too

by Rudy Sanchez on 06/10/2019 | 2 Minute Read

We’ve seen how destructive plastic can be on the environment, including the consequences of animals confusing the material for food. As it turns out, marine life, birds, and cows aren’t the only ones ingesting plastic.

Last October, Austrian scientists found that plastic particles exist in human excrement, but until now no one has quantified just how much plastic we eat. A new study, the first of its kind, found that the average human eats at least 50,000 microplastic plastic particles annually and breathes in about the same amount, although the number is likely much higher, with the consumption of bottled water significantly increasing the number of particles ingested.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, examined data from 26 previous studies measuring the amount of plastic found in the things we eat, animals such as fish and shellfish, as well as commonly consumed items like beer, salt, sugar and water-they even looked into studies quantifying the plastic in the air. The study’s scientists then used the US government’s daily recommended intake of those items and calculated the number of microplastics a person would consume over a typical day. The researchers warn, however, that they only assessed 15% of caloric intake and that people might consume significantly more plastic.

“We don’t know a huge amount. There are some major data gaps that need to get filled,” said lead researcher Kieran Cox at the University of Victoria in Canada in The Guardian.

Bottled water, for which there is a lot of data available, was found to be a significant source of microplastic. The study found that, if a person solely consumed bottled water, they’d be ingesting 130,000 particles from that single source alone.

The study did not make any findings on the impact this consumption of plastic has on human health. At least one study has found that plastic leeched chemicals that later threatened reproduction, immunity and stunted growth in animals, however.

If the impact upon other species wasn’t enough motivation to reduce the use of plastic, perhaps this new revelation will inspire a reduction out of a sense of self-interest — not the noblest reason to start using a refillable water canteen, but hey, whatever works.