Humans Eat More Than 100 Plastic Fibers With Each Meal
But when researchers at Heriot-Watt University set out to investigate that concern, they found that plastics in our own homes pose a much greater threat to humans.
The results of the study, published March 29 in Environmental Pollution, found that humans likely consume about 114 plastic microfibers each meal simply from household dust that settles on their plates.
Researchers gathered mussels from around the coast of Scotland in order to assess how many microplastics humans might ingest by eating the mussels.
As a control, they also set Petri dishes filled with sticky dust traps next to dinner plates at three separate homes.
Fourteen pieces of plastic settled on the dishes after 20 minutes, about the length of a meal. Given the difference in size, scientists calculated 114 such pieces would settle on a plate during the same time.
That adds up to 13,731 to 68,415 pieces per year.
In comparison, researchers calculated that eating mussels would only lead humans to ingest 100 microplastics yearly. Each mussel they studied contained about two plastic particles.
"These results may be surprising to some people who may expect the plastic fibres in seafood to be higher than those in household dust," senior study author Dr. Ted Henry said in a Heriot-Watt University press release.
The study's authors did not think that the plastics came from the home-cooked meals used in the study or the kitchens where they were prepared.
"We do not know where these fibres come from, but it is likely to be inside the home and the wider environment," Henry said in the release.
Friends of the Earth member Julian Kirby provided the university with insight into how plastic particles end up in dust.
"Plastic microfibers found in the dust in our homes and the air we breathe can come from car tyres, carpets and soft furnishings, as well as clothes such as fleece jackets. These are regularly shedding tiny bits of plastic into the environment as they are worn away," he said in the Heriot-Watt release.
According to a study published in Lancet Planetary Health in October, 2017, the proliferation of microplastics in the environment is a concern in part because the impact on human health is still not well-known.
However, even if marine microplastics are not the main source for human consumption, they are still a major problem for marine life. The study also marked the first time microplastics were found in the protected mussel species Modiolus modiolus.
We’re Drowning in Seas of Plastic https://t.co/EYX6gwZZqH @GreenpeaceUK @wwwfoecouk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1522323307.0
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
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