According to new research, humans could eat and breathe up to 52,000 microplastics every year.
Microplastics are tiny plastic fragments that are broken down from man-made products such as synthetic clothing, contact lenses and straws. They are among the most ubiquitous materials in the world.
Shockingly, microplastics have been found on some of the world’s highest mountains, and at the bottom of the Mariana’s Trench – the deepest part of the Ocean.
Canadian scientists analysed numerous data sets and found that an adult male could expect to ingest up to 52,000 microplastic particles each year, which is roughly equivalent to 320 particles per day.
The report coincided with the UN’s World Environment Day, which focused 2019 on air pollution, and the scientists concluded that these figures were estimates, citing plastic consumption can be affected by what an individual eats and where they live.
The impact on human health is still not well understood, although micro plastics particles ‘have the potential to translocate into human tissues and trigger a localised immune response.’
In an interview with Rappler, Alastair Grant, Professor of Ecology at the University of East Anglia commented:
“There was no evidence that the plastic particles identified in the study posed any significant danger to human health.
“One of the two sources for particle concentrations in the air says that the observed fibres are too large to be inhaled, so the numbers of particles that actually reach our lungs will be much smaller than the numbers quoted”.
The researchers said that more studies will be needed to further understand how many microparticles reach the lungs and stomach and what danger this poses.
“The most effective way to reduce human of microplastics will likely be to reduce the production and use of plastics.”
Our plastic waste has significantly increased throughout the years. A report published by the Our World in Data concluded that in 1950 the World produced 2 million tonnes of plastic waste per year, by 2015 this number has increased significantly to 381 million and roughly equates to the mass of two-thirds of the World population.
The news comes as figures show that Kirklees is recycling fewer plastics than two years ago. The lack of adequate facilities around the area has led to plastic waste being incinerated across the country.
Figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs revealed that during 2017, Kirklees recycled 47, 530 tonnes of waste, which was 25% of the total. In 2015, this figure was 30%.
Kirklees mainly uses incinerators, which accounts for 73% of waste disposal. The remaining wastage is sent to landfill sites.
The Government set in its manifesto for all household waste to be recycled by 2020 and to reduce the use of landfill sites to 10% by 2035.
In an interview with the Dewsbury Reporter, Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner said: “All but a tiny fraction of plastic is made of fossil fuels like oil and gas so burning these pots and packaging contributes to the climate emergency as well as trashing public trust in the recycling industry.
“The only way out of the plastic pollution crisis is to radically reduce how much plastic we produce in the first place”.