How we swallow 114 pieces of plastic with every meal
WE could be swallowing more than 100 tiny plastic particles with every main meal, a shocking study reveals.
The plastic, which can come from soft furnishings and synthetic fabrics, gets into household dust which falls on plates and is consumed.
UK scientists made the discovery after putting Petri dishes containing sticky dust traps on the table next to dinner plates in three homes at meal times.
Up to 14 pieces of plastic were found in the Petri dishes at the end of a 20-minute meal – the equivalent of 114 plastic fibres falling on the average dinner plate given their much larger size.
The scientists, from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, concluded that the average person swallows up to 68,415 potentially dangerous plastic fibres a year simply through sitting down to eat. The study confirms the alarming spread of plastic in the air which was recently uncovered by the Daily Mail.
An investigation by this newspaper, which has run a longstanding Turn The Tide on Plastic campaign, revealed earlier this month that fillets of fresh fish from open counters at major supermarkets contain up to 139 pieces of plastic for every 240g. The particles were too large to have passed from the gut into the flesh of the fish so the University of Portsmouth scientists who oversaw our investigation believe the plastics came from airborne contamination.
Experts warn that ingesting plastic particles can damage lungs, poison kidneys and interfere with hormones.
It had previously been thought the risk to human health was largely from eating fish polluted by plastic waste in the oceans.
But the Edinburgh scientists set out to compare plastic fibres found in mussels with the amount in the average household meal.
They found fewer than two microplastics in each mussel, which could be linked to the marine environment, and conclude that the average person can expect to consume 100 plastic particles a year through eating the shellfish. But they will ingest anything from 13,731 to 68,415 fibres in a year during meals because of household dust.
Dr Ted Henry, senior author of the study and professor of environmental toxicology at HeriotWatt University, said: ‘ These results may be surprising to some people who may expect the plastic fibres in seafood to be higher than those in household dust.
‘We do not know where these fibres come from, but it is likely to be inside the home and the wider environment.’
The plastic fibres found in the home-cooked meals did not come from the food or the cooking environment, but household dust, the authors believe. Eating is the way in which humans can ingest this dust, as well as breathing it in from the air. Julian Kirby, of Friends of the Earth, said: ‘Plastic microfibres found in the dust in our homes and the air we breathe can come from car tyres, carpets and soft furnishings, as well as clothes such as fleece jackets.
‘These are regularly shedding tiny bits of plastic into the environment as they are worn away. We urgently need the Government to adopt an action plan to end plastic pollution and research the possible impacts of environmental plastic on human health.’