From the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to bed, retrace your steps and analyze how many plastic objects you come into contact with throughout the day. From your phone, to your coffee machine, cosmetics, handles, children’s toys, laptops to so much more. Well, apparently we’re not only touching a lot of plastic objects, we’re also eating them!
A research published in June 2019 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology has come to the conclusion that adults eat approximately 50,000 micro-plastic particles a year, while children ingest about 40,000! The study looked at data from 26 previous studies that focused on the amounts of micro-plastic particles in fish, shellfish, sugar, salt, beer and water, as well as in the air in cities. From there, scientists, based on US government dietary guidelines, calculated how many particles people would eat in a twelve month period. Confirming this theory is the fact that plastic particles were also found in human stool samples.
It’s important to note though that only 15 percent of the foods in an average diet were analyzed in this study, with Kieran Cox, the author, clarifying that a lot of the items that were considered in the research are the ones that are usually eaten raw and that “We haven't gotten to the layers and layers of plastic packaging,”.
Think it’s just food? Nope! Some of the best available data concerns the presence of micro-plastics in water, with bottled water containing an average of 22 times more micro-plastic than tap water. This means that a person who only drinks bottled water will consume approximately 130,000 plastic particles a year from drinking water alone. Big difference compared to the “only” 4,000 particles consumed by those who only consume tap water.
As far as plastic particles found in the air we breathe, scientists are not certain as to what happens once micro-plastics are inhaled, but the same study published earlier this year, suggests that “most inhaled particles will be ingested” rather than being coughed or sneezed out. Keep in mind that particles found in the air, can not only be breathed in, but they can also settle on to your food adding further tens of thousands of plastic particles to your meals. By adding the amount of micro-plastic inhaled, the total number of particles ending up in our bodies rises to more than 74,000.
What is the health impact of micro-plastics
Although scientists are trying to understand how much plastic our bodies can tolerate, and how much damage these micro-plastics could potentially do to humans, the truth is that the consequences are still largely unknown.
A study conducted in 2017 at King’s College in London concluded that different types of plastics have different types of toxic properties. Some for example will have been made using chemicals such as chlorine, while others will contains more traces of lead. It’s no surprise that over time, the cumulative effect of ingesting these different types and different amounts of toxins will undoubtedly have an effect on our bodies. The same conclusion was reached by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins. Here they focused specifically on the consequences of eating seafood contaminated with micro-plastics, but nevertheless, they also agreed that the accumulation of plastic in our bodies could end up damaging our immune system and upsetting a gut's balance.
Reduce Your Exposure to Plastic
The first thing you can do to reduce your exposure to plastic particles would be to ditch bottled water once and for all and drink tap water (of course make sure its safe to drink first!). When going out simply refill a reusable metal steel bottle and carry that around with you. Refill it at water fountains, or just ask a bartender to kindly fill it up for you. Avoid using unsafe plastic containers to store food, check the labels and make sure they are safe. In alternative switch to using glass jars or containers, metal steel containers or even cloth bags to store items.
Never warm up food in plastic as the heat will leach out even more chemicals. Eat more fresh food! Head out to the farmer’s market and get your fruit and vegetables from them. The likelihood that those items would have come into contact with a series of plastic containers and plastic packaging is pretty low. Finally, you can reduce indoor air pollution by minimizing dust, for example by vacuuming regularly.