How we swal­low 114 pieces of plas­tic with ev­ery meal

Daily Mail - - Confidential - By Vic­to­ria Allen Sci­ence Cor­re­spon­dent

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.’

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