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You May Be Swallowing a Credit Card’s Weight in Plastic Weekly, Says New Study

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Want a drink to wash down that credit card?


It may not sound appetizing, but a new study found that the global average of microplastic ingestion could be five grams every week. That's about the same weight as a credit card. Put another way, it's a teaspoonful of plastic, 2,000 tiny bits of plastic; you are inadvertently swallowing every single week, according to CNN.

The research was commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for its report No Plastic in Nature: Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People and executed by the microplastics research team at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

The largest source of plastic ingestion comes from water — both bottled and tap. The average person consumes as many as 1,769 tiny plastic bits per week just by drinking water, as CNN reported.

"In water it's mostly fibers which could come from industrial activities," said Thava Palanisami, Ph.D., a University of Newcastle researcher and one of the study's co-authors, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "It's released with other gases and chemicals and this can then ultimately sink into the freshwater bodies and that gets into the drinking water."

Shellfish came in as the second most common source of plastic in a person's diet. Beer and salt also ranked high as significant sources of plastic, the study showed, according to the New York Post.

The findings, collated from analyzing 52 peer-reviewed studies, are the first to estimate the weight of plastics consumed by individual humans.

"For the first time, this study offers precise estimations on the amounts of plastic ingested by humans," said Palanisami, as reported by The Brussels Times. That weight is five grams every week, or 250 grams over the course of a year.

That number is a conservative estimate too since the study only looked at a few staples. Due to the limitations of the studies the researchers reviewed, they did not look at "rice, pasta, bread, milk, utensils, cutlery, toothpaste, toothbrushes, food packaging and a multitude of other sources that would only add to the amount consumed," as a summary of the study's methodology says.

This study comes on the heels of another paper released last week that found people might eat up to 124,000 pieces of plastic per year. And, people who drink bottled water may add another 90,000 pieces of plastics to their annual intake.

"It is very clear that the issue of microplastics is a global one," said Kala Senathirajah, a co-lead researcher on the University of Newcastle paper, as CNN reported. "Even if countries clean up their backyard, it doesn't mean they will be safe as those [microplastic] particles could be entering from other sources."

The WWF said the results of the study should alert governments to tackle the scourge of plastics with a global treaty that mandates reduction targets from companies and governments, according to CNN.

"Plastics are polluting not only our oceans and waterways but also marine life and humans. Urgent, global action is needed to face this crisis," the WWF said in a statement, as reported by The Brussels Times.

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Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

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