You eat thousands of bits of plastic every year

Though abundant in water, air, and common foods, it’s unclear how it might affect our health.


Plastic is used all throughout food production. Here, bananas growing on a plantation in Cameroon are covered in plastic bags to prevent disfiguring marks.

The tiny pieces of plastic scientists call microplastics are everywhere. They sit at the bottom of the sea, mix into beach sand, and blow in the wind. They’re also inside us.

Last October, microplastics were found in fecal samples from eight people participating in a pilot study to research how much humans might be inadvertently consuming plastic.

Now, a new study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology says it's possible that humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year. With added estimates of how much microplastic might be inhaled, that number is more than 74,000.

How did they estimate this range?

A microplastic particle is any piece of plastic smaller than five millimeters, but many are much smaller and only visible under a microscope.

The study reviewed existing research on microplastics found in beer, salt, seafood, sugar, alcohol, and honey. To calculate how often one person might eat each of those items in a year, the study looked at recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Currently, the existing research on microplastics in...

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