Quantcast

Humans Eat More Than 100 Plastic Fibers With Each Meal

Health + Wellness

The proliferation of microplastics in the ocean has led to concerns that they might work their way up the food chain to us.

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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

America's national bird is threatened by hunters. Not that hunters are taking aim at the iconic bald eagle, but bald eagles are dying after eating lead bullets, as CNN reported.

Read More
Bill Bader, owner of Bader Farms, and his wife Denise pose in front of the Rush Hudson Limbaugh Sr. United States Courthouse in Cape Girardeau, Missouri on Jan. 27, 2020. Johnathan Hettinger / Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

A jury in Missouri awarded a farmer $265 million in a lawsuit that claimed Bayer and BASF's weedkiller destroyed his peach orchard, as Reuters reported.

Read More
Sponsored
Earthjustice says Louisiana has violated the Clean Water Act and given Formosa Plastics Group the "greenlight to double toxic air pollution in St. James" (seen above). Louisiana Bucket Brigade

By Jessica Corbett

A coalition of local and national groups on Friday launched a legal challenge to a Louisiana state agency's decision to approve air permits for a $9.4 billion petrochemical complex that Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group plans to build in the region nationally known as "Cancer Alley."

Read More
Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Bob Wick / BLM / onEarth

By Jeff Turrentine

Well, he told us he would do it. And now he's actually doing it — or at least trying to. Late last week, President Trump, via the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, announced that he was formalizing his plan to develop lands that once belonged within the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in southern Utah. The former is a stunningly beautiful, ecologically fragile landscape that has played a crucial role in Native American culture in the Southwest for thousands of years; the latter, just as beautiful, is one of the richest and most important paleontological sites in North America.

Read More
Smoke pours from the exhaust pipes on a truck on Nov. 5, 2019 in Miami, Florida. According to a 2017 EPA study the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. is from the transportation sector. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Julie McNamara

First, a fact: People want clean air. And who can blame them — in the United States more than 100,000 people still die from air pollution each year.

Read More