June 6 (CNET) – Think you know what you’re consuming each day? Think again. A recent study reports that the average American eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic every year. Yum?
The news comes from a report published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The scientists behind the study used data from 25 earlier studies covering common American foods to figure out how many microplastic particles are in those foods. US government dietary guidelines then helped them calculate how many plastic particles the average person eats in a year. Foods examined included fish, shellfish, sugar, salt and beer.
Though adults consume about 50,000 particles of microplastics per annum, kids aren’t far behind, averaging 40,000 particles a year.
Eating isn’t the only way we take in microplastics. The study also looked at how we consume microplastics by drinking water and by simply inhaling air. It turns out bottled water might be a big culprit.
“Individuals who meet their recommended water intake through only bottled sources may be ingesting an additional 90,000 microplastics annually, compared to 4,000 microplastics for those who consume only tap water,” the study reports.
And don’t think they’re overestimating things. The study includes only a small percentage of foods, so the authors note that their resulting values “are likely underestimates.”
We may be able to cut down on the number of microplastics consumed, especially by switching from bottled water to tap water, but good luck eliminating them entirely.
“Microplastics are ubiquitous across ecosystems,” the study’s authors write.
The microplastics particles are “mostly created by the disintegration of plastic litter,” UK newspaper The Guardian notes. The Guardian analysis goes on to say that while it’s unknown what ingesting microplastics does to the human body, they could release toxic substances or trigger immune reactions.