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Alert! We eat 52,000 plastic particles every year

Having plastic?
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Having plastic?

Humans eat and breathe in tens of thousands of microplastic particles every year, according to a new analysis that raised fresh questions over how plastic waste could directly impact our health.

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The omnipresent
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The omnipresent

Microplastics — tiny plastic shards broken down from man-made products such as synthetic clothing, car tyres and contact lenses — are among the most ubiquitous materials on the planet.

They have been found on some of the world’s highest glaciers and at the bottom of the deepest ocean trenches.

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In the food chain
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In the food chain

Several previous studies have shown how microplastics may enter the human food chain, including one last year that found them in nearly all major bottled water brands sampled.

In this research, Canadian scientists analysed hundreds of data sets on microplastic contamination and compared them to the typical diet and consumption habits of Americans. They found that an adult male could expect to ingest up to 52,000 microplastic particles each year.

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Ingesting plastic
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Ingesting plastic

Taking into account the pollution we breathe in, that figure rose to 121,000 particles — equivalent to over 320 particles every day.

An additional 90,000 particles could be ingested each year if an individual only drank bottled water, according to the study, published in the journal ‘Environmental Science and Technology’.

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Place matters
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Place matters

The authors stressed that their figures were estimates. The amount of plastics consumed by a given individual would depend largely on where they live and what they eat, they said.

They also added that the impact on human health of microplastic consumption was still not well understood. However microplastic particles smaller than 130 micrometres in diameter “have the potential to translocate into human tissues (and) trigger a localised immune response”.

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