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People Eat 50,000+ Microplastics Every Year, New Study Finds
What's the last thing you ate? Chances are you took a big bite of plastic.
A new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that the average person swallows about 50,000 pieces of plastic per year and inhales about the same amount. Microplastics — bits of plastic invisible to the human eye — are in our food, drinks, air, and increasingly in our stomachs and lungs.
But if eating 50,000 pieces of plastic per year isn't alarming enough, the true number is likely much higher. The researchers only looked at a small number of foods and drinks. And, drinking bottled water drastically increases the amount of microplastics you consume, The Guardian reports.
"Individuals who meet their recommended water intake through only bottled sources may be ingesting an additional 90,000 microplastics annually, compared to 4,000 microplastics for those who consume only tap water," the study reads.
While you may try to reduce your plastic intake by not drinking from plastic bottles or eschewing plastic cutlery, you can't avoid it all together. The study authors note that microplastics are ubiquitous across ecosystems.
The researchers reviewed 26 previous studies that analyzed the amounts of microplastic particles in fish, shellfish, added sugars, salts, alcohol, tap or bottled water, and air. They then extrapolated U.S. dietary guidelines to calculate how many particle people would eat annually.
The studies available only allowed the researchers to look at a small percentage of foods. "We don't know a huge amount. There are some major data gaps that need to get filled," said Kieran Cox, at the University of Victoria in Canada, who led the research, as The Guardian reported.
Foods like bread, processed products, meat, dairy and vegetables, may well contain just as much plastic, he said to The Guardian. "It is really highly likely there is going to be large amounts of plastic particles in these. You could be heading into the hundreds of thousands."
So, how dangerous is all this plastic in us? The jury is still out, but some pieces are small enough to enter human tissue. Once there, they are able to trigger immune reactions or release toxins, according to the American Chemical Society. And, the evidence on animals isn't promising — studies show plastics in the ocean harm marine life, slow growth rates, and lower reproductive rates. Two ubiquitous plastics, BPA and phthalates, have been linked to lower sperm counts and decreases in male testosterone levels, according to Business Insider.
Cox told The Guardian that his research changed his own behavior. "I definitely steer away from plastic packaging and try to avoid bottled water as much as possible," he said.
He added ways that small actions can lead to big impacts. "Removing single-use plastic from your life and supporting companies that are moving away from plastic packaging is going to have a non-trivial impact," he said.
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.