Your food and bottled water contain tens of thousands of micro-plastic bits: New study

According to the results of a new scientific study, micro-plastics are pervasive in your food and drink and the average American consumes more than 70,000 particles of  “microplastics” every year — and that’s likely an underestimation, say the scientists heading up the research.

Can we have some specifics, please?

Scientists stated that a person’s micro-plastics consumption rises based on personal food choices they make. For example, a person who only drinks bottled water could be ingesting an additional 90,000 micro-plastics annually, compared with just 4,000 micro-plastics for someone who only drinks tap water.

In the new study, scientists analyzed more than two dozen studies that estimated the average micro-plastic content of different types of foods.

They then estimated what an average person’s micro-plastic intake would be if they ate the recommended daily amount of these foods.

The studies included in the review focused on such commonly consumed items as seafood, sugar, salt, honey, alcohol and bottled water.  (A whole host of other common foods, including chicken, deli meats, vegetables and dairy products, have not yet been analyzed for their micro-plastic content.)

Based on these studies, the researchers estimated that annual micro-plastic consumption ranges between 39,000 to 52,000 particles, depending on age and sex…

The numbers would likely be higher for people who eat foods and drink liquids that are processed using plastics or packaged in plastics.

Previous research on humans consuming micro-plastics:

Austrian researchers found that the average human stool sample contained at least 20 bits of micro-plastic. In another study, micro-plastic was found in 90 percent of samples of common table salt.

How harmful are these micro-plastics in your digestive system and the rest of your body?

Unfortunately, no one knows for sure yet.

Researchers acknowledge that there’s a chance that harmful chemicals in the plastic might leach out of the particles as they pass through the body.

Some particles also might lodge in the body following inhalation or ingestion, causing immune system responses and cellular damage.

“It’s certainly concerning.  I think the best we can say is perhaps there’s minimal harm here, but I think there is a possibility the harm could be extensive.”

-Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, chief of occupational and environmental medicine, Northwell Health, Great Neck, New York



Journal reference: Cox, K.D., et al. Human Consumption of Microplastics,  Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, Published online June 2019.


Copyright © 2019 American Chemical Society

Study Abstract