Researchers performing a study at the University of Victoria recently released their findings on how much microplastic particles people consume and the results are not encouraging. In fact, we're all eating a disgusting amount of plastic every year. The study came out in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology.
Microplastics come from the degradation of products such as clothing, tires, water bottles, and other pollutants that are carelessly tossed away or improperly recycled. Unfortunately for the planet, microplastics have been found everywhere from the ocean floor to the highest mountains.
According to the study, "microplastics are ubiquitous across ecosystems, yet the exposure risk to humans is unresolved." Therefore, researchers evaluated the number of microplastic particles in the most commonly consumed food and drinks in relation to daily intake.
The study shows that on average, people consume roughly 126 to 142 microplastic particles per day. When factoring inhalation, the study concludes that humans inhale another 130 to 170 microplastic particles.
Yes. This means that microplastic particles are in your food, water, and air. Such a warm and fuzzy feeling, isn't it?
Researchers also scaled those daily numbers up to an average yearly intake of microplastic particles. Apparently, estimations indicate that humans consume nearly 52,000 particles per year and inhale another 121,000 particles. Yikes.
For those who drink water exclusively from bottled sources — you're consuming an extra 90,000 microplastics annually compared to only 40,000 from tap water.
While the researchers are fast to point out that these numbers are only estimations, they acknowledge that their numbers might actually be underestimated. They used existing figures for their methodology and therefore the study doesn't accurately evaluate precise measurements.
What do 52,000 ingested microplastic particles look like, though? Researches say that this amounts to roughly a teaspoon of plastic. They aren't sure what the long-term health ramifications of microplastic ingestion are either.
Microplastics most commonly come from plastic fibres in clothing that is washed or thrown out. While a normal part of the ecosystem, the proliferation of microplastic pollution puts oceanic health at great risk because plastic particles can build up and clog arteries, for example.
No one is sure what to do about this and the study doesn't seem to offer a solution. As much of the scientific community agrees that we are past the point of no return, are there any solutions to this global issue?
As plastics start to build fortresses on our shorelines and pollute far reaches of the Arctic, we're here breathing in and ingesting the consequences of our rampant planetary destruction.
Good luck, Planet Earth.
To read the complete study, please visit the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology.
For more information on what microplastics do to our ecosystem, please read Leslie Young's piece on Global News.