Study Finds that Humans Consume Plastic Weekly
A recent World Wildlife Fund study concluded that humans consume about a credit card’s worth of plastic every single week from microplastic pollution of our environment. Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic measuring anywhere from one micron to five millimeters that enter our food, water and the atmosphere. Scientists have very little information on the long-term effects of this on the human body because microplastics have only been closely studied in more recent years. But there have been countless examples of what happens to wildlife when exposed to large bodies of plastic in their habitats, and the results are very troubling – like “Children of Men” troubling. And if microplastics aren’t anxiety-inducing enough, there is also the possibility of exposure to nanoplastics – the microscopic cousin of microplastics that easily cross the gut lining and worm their way into our circulatory systems.
The concern surrounding plastics in our food system stems from the massive, global increase in plastic manufacturing, coupled with plastic manufacturing laws that differ across countries, states, and industries. To be clear, the jury is still out on how micro- or nanoplastics affect human health, but limiting our exposure certainly can’t hurt.
Avoiding contaminated food products is a good start. And although it is difficult to specify which types of food are more susceptible to plastic contamination, scientists have identified two major sources. One is fish/shellfish, who have already ingested the plastic from the environment by the time those dishes end up on our plates. The second, of course, are bottles of drinking water – 35 billion of which are thrown away every year at a degradation rate of between 500 and 1,000 years per bottle. Regular sweeping and vacuuming of your residence, as opposed to simply dusting, can also help eliminate microplastic dust that can accumulate and infiltrate our drinking glasses or dinner plates.
Although microplastics remain a question mark as far as the physical and cognitive impacts are concerned, fortunately humans have evolved barriers and mechanisms, including foreign-object-gobblers like macrophages, to address our ingestion of non-food items. But, given the sheer volume of exposure we’re all facing on a daily basis, coupled with the unknown effects of chronic contact, taking steps to minimize your microplastic consumption appears to be a prudent course of action.
Got plastic? We’re ingesting a credit card’s worth every week.