Whether it is drinking from a plastic bottle or carrying a plastic bag, most of us come into contact with plastic several times a day.
Now, a study has estimated just how much plastic the average person ends up consuming.
The study, by researchers from University of Victoria, estimates that the average American consumes more than 70,000 particles of microplastics every year - and worryingly, the health effects of this consumption remain unclear.
In the study, the researchers reviewed 26 previous studies that analysed the amounts of micro plastic particles in fish, shellfish, added sugars, salts, alcohol, tap or bottled water, and air.
The team then assessed approximately how much of these food humans eat on average.
The results suggest that humans consume between 74,000 and 121,000 micro plastic particles per year, depending on age and sex.
However, not everyone is so convinced by these estimates.
Professor Alastair Grant, Professor of Ecology at the University of East Anglia, said: “The authors calculate consumption of microplastics from measured concentrations in food and air.
“They calculate that an adult male consumes 142 plastic particles per day by mouth and inhales another 170.
“The rather large numbers that are given most prominence are annual estimates. No evidence is presented that these rates of consumption are a significant danger to human health.
“The figure for inhalation is calculated by multiplying particle concentrations in air by daily respiration rates but does not take into account the systems that our bodies have to remove particles from the air that we breathe.
“One of the two sources for particle concentrations in air says that the observed fibers are too large to be inhaled so, the numbers of particles that actually reach our lungs will be much smaller than the numbers quoted.”
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that humans can inadvertently consume when eating food, or even breathing air containing microplastics.
While the health effects of their consumption remains unclear, the researchers warn that some pieces are small enough to enter human tissues, where they could potentially trigger immune reactions or release toxic substances.
The team now plans follow-up studies to understand the effects of consuming micro plastics on health.
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