Study reveals more than 100 tiny plastics in every meal

April 4, 2018, Heriot-Watt University
Credit: Heriot-Watt University

We could be swallowing more than 100 tiny plastic particles with every main meal, a Heriot-Watt study has revealed.

The , which can come from soft furnishings and synthetic fabrics, gets into household which falls on plates and is consumed.

The university academics made the discovery after putting Petri dishes containing sticky dust traps on the table next to dinner plates in three homes at meal times.

Up to 14 pieces of plastic were found in the Petri dishes at the end of a 20-minute meal – the equivalent of 114 plastic fibres falling on the average dinner plate given their much larger size.

The scientists, from Heriot-Watt University concluded that the swallows up to 68,415 potentially dangerous plastic fibres a year simply through sitting down to eat.

The researchers set out to compare plastic fibres found in mussels with the amount in the average household meal.

They found fewer than two microplastics in each mussel, which could be linked to the marine environment, and concluded that the average person can expect to consume 100 plastic particles a year through eating the shellfish.

But they will ingest anything from 13,731 to 68,415 fibres in a year during meals because of household dust.

Dr. Ted Henry, senior author of the study and professor of environmental toxicology at Heriot-Watt University, said: "These results may be surprising to some people who may expect the plastic fibres in seafood to be higher than those in household dust.

"We do not know where these fibres come from, but it is likely to be inside the home and the wider environment."

The plastic fibres found in the home-cooked meals did not come from the food or the cooking environment, but household dust, the authors believe.

Eating is the way in which humans can ingest this dust, as well as breathing it in from the air.

Julian Kirby, of Friends of the Earth, added: "Plastic microfibres 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 as they are worn away.

"We urgently need the Government to adopt an action plan to end plastic pollution and research the possible impacts of environmental plastic on human health."

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6 comments

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alexander2468
2 / 5 (4) Apr 04, 2018
"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". - "We urgently need the Government to adopt an action plan to end plastic pollution and research the possible impacts of environmental plastic on human health."
Can any explain how we are going to eliminate soft furnishings, clothes, car tyres, carpets, may be the carpet is the clue; a magic flying carpet will replace car tyres!
Thorium Boy
1 / 5 (3) Apr 05, 2018
Who cares? We ingest copious amounts of human skin from the air, it being one of the major constituents of particulate contamination. We ingest metals, silicas, wood, salt, all kinds of particulates. This is why the neurotic fear of "nanoparticles" is so ridiculous, there have been nanoparticles in the environment forever.
barakn
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 05, 2018
Silica causes a disease called silicosis which is progressive, generally not curable, and often fatal. Crystalline silica is also known to cause cancer. Asbestos is another natural mineral that people inhale, and it also causes lung cancer and COPD. It's almost like you went out of your way to say the stupidest thing possible.
greenonions1
5 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2018
Can any explain how we are going to eliminate soft furnishings...
Perhaps we can't eliminate soft furnishing - and perhaps ingesting these plastics is not a health risk. Science is about finding out. If there is a health risk in ingesting plastics - then perhaps we can find alternatives - that are not harmful.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2018
Double post
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2018
Who cares? We ingest copious amounts of human skin from the air

There's a tiny difference: our organism can break down biological substances like skin flakes. But we are unable to do anything with plastic particles(since they were never an issue during our evolutionary history).
At best these pass through the digestive system, at worst they accumulate over your lifetime in your body and leach out the substances within (like softeners) which are toxic/carcinogens.

Can any explain how we are going to eliminate soft furnishings

Natural materials exist (e.g. leather, cotton, cork, ...). People did manage to live in comfort even before the advent of plastics, you know?

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