More than 50,000 microplastic particles a year: that is what an average citizen ingests according to the first estimate we have
The average American ingests 39,000 to 52,000 plastic particles a year eating and drinking. Between 74,000 and 121,000 if we count the air they breathe. Those are the conclusions of a study just published by a research group at the University of Victoria. It is an interesting exercise. At the end of the day, microplastics are already ubiquitous and are present in every ecosystem in which we look for them. Also within ourselves.
And that worries the scientists working on the subject. Above all, because the real effects and risks of exposure to microplastics remain essentially unknown. There are hypotheses for all tastes (from substance release to possible immunological reactions), but they are just that, hypotheses. And not too solid.
Given this, the team at the University of Victoria asked a slightly different question. Okay, we don't know what they do in our body, but do we at least know how much we consume?
Life in plastic, it's fantastic
And no, of course, we didn't know. The researchers brought together all the studies that had been done on the presence of microplastics in food and drinks. In total, they found 26 that studied 402 products with a total of 3,600 samples analyzed. We talk about things like fish, shellfish, sugar, salt, beer, and water. They also found data on the amount of particles we ingest in city air.
After that, they took the data on the diet of Americans that the federal government compiles and estimated the amount of microplastics that would be ingested by that route. The problem? That all the foods studied did not exceed 15% of the diet of an average American. That introduces a lot of noise into the estimate.
In addition, there are data that vary greatly. For example, those who consume bottled water instead of tap water would be ingesting up to 90,000 more microplastic particles. In comparison, only 4,000 particles per year would be consumed through tap water (always according to their calculations).
However, researchers are aware of this and, in general, the methodological decisions they have taken lead us to think that the actual amount must be greater than 50,000 particles. As more analysis is done with other foods, the image will become more complete, but these figures allow us to get an idea of what we already suspected: the invasion of microplastics is underway and not only do we have no idea how to stop it: no we know if we have to.
Image | Daniel Chekalov