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Food, water and air, microplastics are everywhere
Published Wednesday, October 16, 2019 6:00AM PDT Last Updated Wednesday, October 16, 2019 6:56PM PDT
Plastic is everywhere. From bags, to straws, to bottles and packaging, it's hard to imagine our lives without the versatile product.
More than eight billion tons of plastic has been produced, mostly since the 1950’s, but less than 10 per cent of it has been recycled.
Now, it’s been found in a place you probably didn’t expect: your diet.
“As we use all of this plastic, little tiny fragments break off of the water bottles or plastic bags or wrappings. We call these little fragments microplastics. They’re five millimeters at their largest but they can be much smaller; they can be microscopic. And they end up in the food that we eat, the water that we drink and even the air that we breathe,” said Kevin Loria, Consumer Reports health editor.
According to early results from an ongoing study from the University of Newcastle in Australia, researchers estimate the average person consumes up to five grams of plastic a week.
That’s the equivalent of a credit card.
The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) said that research has not shown “significant human health impacts” from microplastics, but both PLASTICS and experts agree it’s something that requires further study.
“Experts that we’ve spoken with say that it’s very likely there are going to be at least some health effects. It’s possible, for example, that ingesting microplastics might increase our exposure to some other chemicals that we know are in some plastics; chemicals that we know have harmful health effects,” said Loria.
A few of the culprits include bisphenols, phthalates and styrene. Some chemicals have been linked to serious health problems, including reduced fertility, obesity, organ damage, developmental delays in children and cancer.
So how can you ditch plastic in your diet?
First, drink tap water. The levels of microplastics in bottled water can be twice as high as those found in tap. Instead of one-use plastic bottles, opt for a reusable metallic bottle.
Do you frequently use your microwave? Don’t heat food in plastic and instead, use glass containers. And if you heat food on the stovetop or in the oven, use a pan.
When was the last time you broke out the vacuum cleaner? Microplastics are also hiding in household dust, so make sure to clean your home often.
Finally, eat more fresh food. It may expose you to fewer dangerous chemicals than packaged and processed food, many of which are packaged or lined with plastic.
Experts recommend that consumers choose products packaged in glass instead of plastic, use reusable, non-plastic containers when possible, and support policies that limit the use of single-use plastic.