If someone asks you, “Does the Life Preserver taste good?” You must be full of questions: “How do I know? I’ve never eaten one”. Well, studies have shown that the “plastic intake” of humans is staggering. On average, humans intake about one bank card per week, five dice per month, half a pound of plastic per year, and a large life preserver every 10 years!
A paper in Scientific Reports, a Nature sub-journal, suggests that every time we tear open a piece of chocolate or unscrew a bottle of mineral water, we create plastic particles that we can then eat/drink. These are not lies. At the European Society of Gastroenterology 2018, researchers reported that up to 9 types of microplastics have been detected in human feces. “Microplastics” are plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in diameter, some of which come from broken chunks of plastic and some from human inventions. Toothpaste and exfoliating cleansers may contain plastic microbeads; clothes fibers may fall out of the water when washing clothes; every time we tear open a plastic bag or unscrew a plastic bottle, a small amount of microplastics may be produced.
Research from the University of Newcastle in Australia shows that the average person worldwide ingests about 2,000 microplastics per week and 1,769 microplastic particles through drinking water (tap water, bottled water) alone. If you accumulate these microplastics smaller than 5 mm, approximately how many are there? 2500g every ten years; this is the size of a Life Preserver. Plastic has “successfully” contaminated our gut; how are they eaten?
In the 1950s, humans began producing plastics on a large scale, and global plastic production has been growing almost exponentially ever since. Plastic Europe data show that global plastic production in 2018 was 238 times higher than in 1950. As of 2015, humans produced a total of 8.3 billion tons of plastic, 80% of which became waste, and only 9% of plastic waste is recycled. Un-recycled plastic waste is buried in the soil, thrown into incinerators, and dumped into the ocean. These discarded plastics through the food chain layers and eventually reached the human dining table.
It is marine life that is most harmed by plastic. Humans dump millions of tons of plastic waste into the ocean every year, and in fact, about 99.9% of marine waste is plastic. Researchers from many countries have found microplastics in shellfish and fish. Researchers from the National University of Ireland even found plastic particles in deep-sea fish at depths of 300 to 600 meters in the Atlantic Ocean. When contaminated shellfish and fish are served on the table, plastic may enter your body with it. In addition to marine life, researchers have also found the presence of microplastics in tap water, salt, beers, and beverages.
In 2018, a paper published in the scientific journal Chemical Frontiers, researchers bought 11 brands of 259 bottles of bottled water in different countries, the result showing it containing 93% of microplastics, and people in the U.S. who only drink bottled water, not tap water, the total annual intake of plastic particles is about 90,000. It is no exaggeration to say that once plastics enter the environment, they can lead to pollution and continue to accumulate in food through the soil, terrestrial food chain, aquatic food chain, and water supply, they can also easily leach out toxic particles and by being absorbed by other creatures, they will ultimately enter the human body directly or indirectly.
The process of interaction between microplastics and human body components is very complex, and what kind of negative impact microplastics will have on humans is not yet a clear conclusion, but when you think about it, it is not something good after all. It is not that difficult to reduce plastic pollution, use one less plastic bag, drink one less bottle of water, and use one less plastic straw is all you need to do.