We consume a minimum of 74,000 microplastic particles in a single year

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microplastics
Microplastics from the Patapsco River pictured at the laboratory in the University of Maryland . (Credits - Flickr/chesbayprogram)

Microplastics have reached every corner of the ecosystem on the planet. The deepest ocean trenches to the highest mountain peaks, it is due to humans that microplastics have spread across the ecosystem. An average person today is set to consume close to 74,000 pieces of microplastic every year. It is said to be undervalued as the intake of microplastics can be through sugars, fish, alcohol, bottled water and even the air we breathe. The microplastic database is compared to US Dietary data which predicts a person consumes anything between 74,000 to 121,000 pieces of microplastic particles.

This analysis and report is an alarming indication that the harm we cause to the ecosystem as analyzed by Thavamani Palanisami, a researcher in contamination risk assessment at the University of Newcastle not directly involved in the research. This is a crisis which not only affects the ecosystem but in turn, affects the food we eat and water we drink. This number is highly an average and can undergo a lot of variation. The number has been derived from an American’s daily food consumption and only 14% of calorific intake. The amount of plastic in the remaining 85% is not possible to determine and considering that too, the average microplastic consumption may be close to several hundred thousand yearly.

The research, however, does not mention the costs to be counted on the human health factor. The ill effects of microplastic are highly unknown. Recent research made headlines when researchers found evidence of microplastic in human excreta samples from all over the world. The study has been published in Environmental Science and Technology.

Scientists have proposed few potentially hazardous pathways for harm to the human body but the larger ill effects are not known. Once the microplastics enter the gut they release toxic substances causing stress and cancer, according to the researchers. Similar things could happen when microplastic substances enter through the lungs. Anas Ghadouani, an environmental engineer at the University of Western Australia raises a very serious and a key question about the impacts of microplastics on the human body.

According to a study, bottled water contains 90% more microplastics per litre than tap water. Drinking bottled water for a day may lead to microplastic intake of 349 particles compared to just 16 particles from tap water. Avoiding bottled water is just one way in which we can reduce the intake of microplastics. If the precautionary measures are not followed then the most effective way to reduce microplastic consumption is to reduce the plastic products in our daily life.

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