According to a new report published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal, Americans ingest between 74,000 to 121,000 microplastic particles each year. However, researchers estimated that these numbers are likely much higher as some forms of microplastics are harder to track. But how does plastic end up in the air we breathe?
Microplastics can make their way into the air in a variety of ways. These small particles typically start out as larger plastic pieces, however eventually break down and become invisible to the human eye. From there they can float through the air and are easily inhaled. Microplastics can also be consumed by landing on food or being ingested by the animals that we eat.
According to the study, substantial data was collected from seafood, beer, water, air, and added sugars, where microplastics were commonly found. However, beef, poultry, vegetables, and grains were found to be free of plastic particles. The highest concentration of microplastics was found in bottled water, air, and seafood. However, researchers of the study note that only a small number of foods were tested, meaning the concentrations of plastic in other types of food that we consume is still unknown.
One of the most concerning parts of this study is that what happens to plastics inside the human body is unknown. “We know these are in ecosystems, we know they’re in us, but it’s only been a topic of concern for a handful of years.”, stated Cox, a PhD candidate that helped to analyze the data of the study.
Based on the results of the concentration of plastics found in bottled water, Cox encouraged individuals to rely less on bottled water and more on safe tap water. According to the study, people who drink only bottled water consume 90,000 microplastic particles per year, while those who drink tap water consume 4,000 particles per year.
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