Posted on Jan 28, 2020, 4 p.m.
Plastics are all around you in clothing, food packaging, and even inside of you. A study from the University of Newcastle published in the World Wide Fund For Nature looked at the data surrounding ingestion of microplastics; findings suggest that people are at risk of ingesting 5g of microplastic per week which is equal to the average credit card weight.
Microplastics were defined as being plastic particles under the size of 5mm. Primary microplastics are released directly into the environment in the form of small particulates such as shower gel microbeads and secondary microplastics arise from the degradation of larger plastic items such as biodegradable bags.
As much as 1,769 particles of plastic are consumed by the average person per week just from unfiltered water sources. Another prime source is shellfish which can account for another 0.5g per week, this stems from shellfish living in plastic pollutes seas often being consumed whole.
Another study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology looked at data from 26 peer reviewed studies on the concentration of microplastics in food items including sugars, salts, alcohol, seafood, tap water, and bottled water. Findings suggest that Americans consume between 39,000-52,000 microplastics each year; and those who only drink bottled water may be ingesting an additional 90,000 microplastics annually compared to 4,000 for those who consume tap water.
Actual numbers may be higher as the researchers noted that their figures may be “drastic underestimates.” They also note: “If our findings are remotely representative, annual microplastic consumption could exceed several hundred thousand particles.”
A study presented at the United European Gastroenterology Week in 2018 by the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria that monitored fecal samples from countries across the world showed that all of the samples tested positive for the presence of microplastics, with up to 9 different plastic types being found in the samples.
Polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate were among the identified plastics found in the fecal samples, these are commonly used in household items, clothing, food containers, and water bottles; while information on microplastics is sparse the researchers believe that microplastics may impact health through the GI tract.
“This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut,” Philipp Schwabl, a physician-scientist at the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Medical University of Vienna said, adding that the results are particularly important for patients with gastrointestinal diseases.“Now that we have first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.”
Bisphenol A/BPA is also being investigated, this is a precursor to polymers used in some products such as food and beverage containers. BPA may be an endocrine disruptor that can interfere with production, secretion, and action of hormones; experts suggest that this can have negative effects on those who come in physical contact with the chemical.
A study published in Reproductive Toxicology of 75 peer reviewed studies linked BPA to a variety of adverse perinatal, childhood, and adult health effects including those related to metabolism, development, and reproduction such as asthma, metabolic disease, heart disease, reproductive disorders, type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.
To help avoid ingesting microplastics and non plastic check the chemical composition of product containers and look for those that are BPA free. Buy fresh food as much as possible and avoid canned and packaged goods. Try to purchase seafood that has been caught in clean waters.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.