Each average person eats at least 50,000 micro-plastic particles a year and inhales a similar amount, according to a new study.
According to The Guardian (UK), this is the first study to estimate the amount of polluted plastic waste that humans have absorbed.
The real number may be much higher when only a small amount of food and water is taken into account. According to scientists, drinking bottled water seriously increases the amount of micro-plastic particles that humans consume.
It is unclear what the harmful effects of eating micro-plastic particles on humans are, but they may contain toxic substances. Some particles are so small that they can cause damage to tissues in the body, causing immune reactions such as cough, allergies .
Pollution of plastic micro-particles is caused mainly by the breakdown of plastic waste and this situation is happening globally. Researchers found microparticles everywhere: in the air, soil, rivers and lakes and even the deepest seas in the world.
Micro plastic particles are also found in tap water, bottled water, seafood and beer. They were also found in human fecal samples for the first time in October last year - evidence that humans have eaten micro-plastic particles.
This study was published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology (USA), taking data from 26 previous studies that measured the amount of micro-particles in fish, shellfish, sugar, salt, beer and water, as well as air in big cities.
Scientists have used the diet regulated by the US Government to calculate the amount of micro-plastic particles that humans eat in a year.It is estimated that adults eat about 50,000 micro-plastic grains per year, while children are 40,000.
Most food and drinking water has not been tested, and the study only estimates 15% of the calories people consume.
"The number may be much larger. There is still a huge amount of data to be added," said Kieran Cox, head of research at Victoria University (Canada).
Other foods like bread, processed food, meat, dairy products and vegetables may also contain micro-plastic particles, said researcher Kieran Cox."There is a high chance that there will be a lot of micro-plastic particles in these foods. The number can be up to hundreds of thousands."
Bottled water has an average amount of micro plastic particles 22 times in tap water. A bottled water drinker will consume about 130,000 micro-particles per year from this source alone, compared to 4,000 seeds from tap water.
Scientists do not know what will happen when micro-plastic particles enter the human body, but this study has shown "most of them will be absorbed" than coughing and sneezing pushed out. The researchers also estimated that the micro-plastic content of a meal of the day could be up to 10,000 seeds / year.
Cox said the study completely changed his habits."I try not to use plastic packaging and avoid using bottled water as much as possible," he said.
"Removing disposable plastic products and supporting businesses that do not use plastic packaging will bring tremendous change ," Cox said.