Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

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

A scenic view of West Papua. Reza Fakhrudin / Pexels

By Arkilaus Kladit

My name is Arkilaus Kladit. I'm from the Knasaimos-Tehit tribe in South Sorong Regency, West Papua Province, Indonesia. For decades my tribe has been fighting to protect our forests from outsiders who want to log it or clear it for palm oil. For my people, the forest is our mother and our best friend. Everything we need to survive comes from the forest: food, medicines, building materials, and there are many sacred sites in the forest.

Read More Show Less
Everyone overthinks their lives or options every once in a while. Some people, however, can't stop the wheels and halt their train of thoughts. Peter Griffith / Getty Images

By Farah Aqel

Overthinkers are people who are buried in their own obsessive thoughts. Imagine being in a large maze where each turn leads into an even deeper and knottier tangle of catastrophic, distressing events — that is what it feels like to them when they think about the issues that confront them.

Read More Show Less
A newly developed catalyst would transform carbon dioxide from power plants and other sources into ethanol. DWalker44 / E+ / Getty Images

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a cheap, efficient way to convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuel, potentially reducing the amount of new carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere.

Read More Show Less
Eureka Sound on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic taken by NASA's Operation IceBridge in 2014. NASA / Michael Studinger / Flickr / CC by 2.0

A 4,000-year-old ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic has collapsed into the sea, leaving Canada without any fully intact ice shelves, Reuters reported. The Milne Ice Shelf lost more than 40 percent of its area in just two days at the end of July, said researchers who monitored its collapse.

Read More Show Less
Teachers and activists attend a protest hosted by Chicago Teachers Union in Chicago, Illinois on Aug. 3, 2020 to demand classroom safety measures as schools debate reopening. KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus cases surging around the U.S. are often carried by kids, raising fears that the reopening of schools will be delayed and calling into question the wisdom of school districts that have reopened already.

Read More Show Less
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds up COVID-19 alert levels during a press conference at Parliament on March 21, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

By Michael Baker, Amanda Kvalsvig and Nick Wilson

On Sunday, New Zealand marked 100 days without community transmission of COVID-19.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Medics with Austin-Travis County EMS transport a nursing home resident with coronavirus symptoms on Aug. 3, 2020 in Austin, Texas. John Moore / Getty Images

The U.S. passed five million coronavirus cases on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, just 17 days after it hit the four-million case mark.

Read More Show Less