That’s what a new study of microplastics reported in Nature estimates.
Scientists have been worrying about microplastics (and more recently, nanoparticles, which are not confined to plastics) for twenty years now, but most of the inquiry has been directed at the build-up of these specks in waterways, oceans and marine species. In 2015, oceanographers estimated there were between 15 trillion and 51 trillion microplastic particles floating in surface waters worldwide.
Everything from plastic bottles (including baby bottles), synthetic clothing fibres, personal-care products to tyres sheds tiny plastic particles. So the precise source in any given environment is nigh impossible to pin down.
As for human ingestion, limited surveys of microplastics in the air, water, salt and seafood, indicate that children and adults might ingest anywhere from dozens to more than 100,000 microplastic specks each day, according to Albert Koelmans, an environmental scientist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He’s the fellow who estimates that in the worst cases people might be ingesting around the mass of a credit card’s worth of microplastic a year.
The ‘good’ news is that scientists haven’t quite decided if this plastic portion of our diets is harmful … or how harmful.
As Nature quotes this scientist, who uses carefully chosen words: “Most of what you ingest is going to pass straight through your gut and out the other end,” says Tamara Galloway, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Exeter, UK. “I think it is fair to say the potential risk might be high.”
California’s State Water Resources Control Board will become the world’s first regulatory authority to announce standard methods for quantifying microplastic concentrations in drinking water. The authority will monitor water over the next four years and publicly reporting the results. Meantime …
Any benefit? Eating your credit card might save you a heap of money!