You're Eating, Drinking and Breathing Microplastics Every Day. Now What? - Infire Tech & Trends - Technology, Entertainment, Arts and Crafts by Infire Media

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You're Eating, Drinking and Breathing Microplastics Every Day. Now What?

You're Eating, Drinking and Breathing Microplastics Every Day. Now What?

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A new study led by Kieran D. Cox and researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia confirms a logical but cringe-worthy conclusion: humans are consuming plastic. The researchers estimate that humans are eating about 250 pieces of microplastic per day, or roughly 94,000 microplastics in a given year. The average amount consumed varies with age and gender, but the basic premise remains.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastics, generally less than 5 mm (one-fifth of an inch) in width. Most consumed by humans are tinier still, frequently in the micrometer range and invisible to the naked eye (25,400 micrometers = one inch). These tiny plastic pieces can form from the breakdown of mismanaged plastic waste over time, or can be directly created for different commercial or industrial applications, like microbeads in facial wash and toothpaste. Synthetic fibres called microfibres can also slough off clothing during the laundry process.

Our food system is reliant on plastic at virtually every step

These tiny fragments and fibres have garnered a surge of research attention over the past decade, buoyed by public interest and a continuing stream of viral videos and photos viscerally demonstrating the impacts of plastics on ocean creatures like turtles, whales, and seabirds. The ever-expanding body of research continues to detect plastic pollution in air, water, the deepest reaches of the ocean, and creatures of all shapes and sizes in between.

It was only a matter of time before someone started quantitatively exploring plastic ingestion in our own bodies. But humans are difficult study subjects compared to other organisms. It's hard to safely and ethically investigate plastics in human subjects, and some of the most obvious screening approaches involve combing through a particularly unappealing type of sample.

Researchers in this study got around some of the challenges of human research by instead focusing on existing, published data. They combed through datasets detailing microplastic counts in honey, salt, alcohol, tap water, sugar, bottled water, seafood, and air, and used these figures in combination with dietary habit data, estimates of drinking water consumption, and data about how much we breathe to arrive at an estimate regarding the number of tiny plastic pieces American children and adults may be consuming via eating, drinking, and breathing.

They found our air, water, and food contain variable concentrations of microplastics, and different ages and genders are likely consuming different amounts of microplastics per day. These results aren't surprising. Our food system is grossly reliant on plastic at virtually every step of production, transport, and storage. Plastic is durable yet not infallible, and it's unrealistic to think we can surround ourselves and our food with it and avoid tiny pieces breaking free here and there during its life cycle. Read full article on the: source website

Microplastics | Kieran D. Cox | microbeads
Image Credit: bbc.com

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