If we asked you how much plastic you’ve consumed in the last few days, you’d likely say ‘none’.
No matter how much we chew our pen lids, most of us don’t tuck into a large chunk of plastic for dinner each night.
But new research suggests that a typical person may be ingesting 5g of microplastics every week.
That’s the same weight as a credit card, for a visual reference.
The WWF, who commissioned the study, found that people take in nearly 2,000 particles of microplastics each week thanks to inhalation, drinking water and beer, and eating shellfish and salt.
Yep, all those things contain teeny-tiny bits of plastic.
Researchers from the University of Newcastle in Australia analysed 52 previous studies to come up with the estimate of how much plastic we’re taking in, and say the figure could be higher as they didn’t take into account all the other ways plastics can be consumed.
The majority of microplastics swallowed came from drinking water, with shellfish coming second and beer last.
Researchers say the results should be a wake-up call to the UK government to get things sorted.
WWF marine police head Alex Taylor said: ‘We don’t want plastic in our ocean, and we don’t want it on our plates.
‘If we’re going to properly address the throwaway plastic pollution crisis, we need urgent action at government, business and consumer levels to tackle its root causes head on.’
There’s not much research on the long-term consequences of plastic ingestion, so it’s not clear what impact taking in 5g a week could have on our health.
Professor Alastair Grant, of the University of East Anglia, said: ‘I don’t think there’s evidence that eating plastic particles at these sort of levels is a significant health risk.’
Perhaps not. But chowing down on plastic without being aware of it isn’t a particularly pleasant idea.
The new research backs up a recent estimate that we consume 100,000 plastic particles a year through food, water, and the air we breathe.
A study at the University of Victoria, Canada, only tested 15% of food and drink products, looking at fish, sugar, salt, beer, and water, but found high levels of plastic present.
Don’t feel smug if you’re a bottled water drinker, as this research found that bottled water contains more microplastics than tap water – 22 times more, in fact.
A person who only drank bottled water would consume 130,000 particles per year compared with 4,000 from tap water, the researchers found.
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