Pollution

People eat 2,000 tiny pieces of plastic every week

Water — from both bottles and taps —, shellfish, beer and salt recorded highest plastic levels

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Friday 14 June 2019
Photo: Getty Images

Plastic has leaked into our environment and food chain so much that people worldwide are consuming about 2,000 tiny pieces of plastic on average every week — the equivalent weight of a credit card, according to a study.

That is approximately five grams per week, 21 grams a month and just over 250 grams a year, shows the study commissioned by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and carried out by University of Newcastle, Australia.

The findings demonstrate that the water, from both bottles and taps, is the single-largest source of plastic ingestion, all over the world.

But, twice as much plastic was found in the US or India than in European or Indonesian water. Moreover, shellfish, beer and salt were also recorded with high plastic levels.

“These findings must serve as a wake-up call to governments. Not only are plastics polluting our oceans and waterways and killing marine life — it’s in all of us and we can’t escape consuming plastics,” said Marco Lambertini, WWF International director general.

For the study, the team combined data from over 50 studies on the ingestion of microplastic by people.

According to Thava Palanisami, project co-lead and microplastics researcher at the University of Newcastle, the study demonstrated "an accurate calculation of ingestion rates for the first time"

"Developing a method for transforming counts of microplastic particles into masses will help determine the potential toxicological risks for humans moving forward,” Palanisami said.

A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports found the remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean, littered with 238 tonnes of plastic, despite being home to around 500 people. The study found almost one million shoes and over 370,000 toothbrushes among the 414 million pieces of plastic washed ashore on that “unspoilt” part of Australian territory.

In yet another case, scientists on expedition find 29 pieces of plastic, of which 23 are micro plastic, in the Atlantic Gyre.

“If we don’t want plastic in our bodies, we need to stop the millions of tons of plastic that continue leaking into nature every year," Lambertini said, while pressing the need for an urgent global action at government, business and consumer levels. 

Lambertini also suggested the need for setting up global targets to tackle the universal plastic pollution.

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