There are hundreds of stories that highlight the accidental consumption of plastic by animals. Activists around the world echo the sentiment of saving sea turtles, fearful that plastic straws and other items will end up in the stomachs of these sea creatures. However, while worries for animals run at an all-time high, make no mistake — humans are at risk too. Though humans seldom consume plastic straws, they aren’t safe from smaller particles, known as microplastics. A recent study proves it.
Humans Consume Microplastics At A Startling Rate
According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Victoria, the average American can consume anywhere between 39,000 to 52,000 particles of microplastic each year. When accounting for inhalation, estimates skyrocket to a startling 121,000 particles.
While the study notes that consumption ranges are dependent on age and sex, another important factor is an individual’s lifestyle. The report notes that individuals who drink bottled water consume an additional 90,000 particles annually. That’s 84,000 more microplastics than those who opt to drink only tap water.
While these statistics are terrifying on their own, researchers claim that these numbers are underestimates. With more tests and data, they believe the actual quantity is much larger.
The Effects of Microplastics
Microplastics are found in a multitude of ecosystems. Unfortunately, microscopic fragments tend to end up in food during production and packaging processes.
While the full effects of microplastics on human health are unknown, previous research suggests dangerous implications. Being less than five millimeters in diameter and having the tendency to release toxic pollutants, these minute particles are both small and harmful. When consumed, they often trigger immune responses or within the human body.
As the use of plastics continues to increase rapidly around the globe, the potential for humans to inhale and consume microplastics is also at an all-time high. There is a need for more conclusive research on microplastics, but for now, just note down the negative ramifications of them on human health.