Human Consumption of Microplastics

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Abstract

Microplastics are ubiquitous across ecosystems, yet the exposure risk to humans is unresolved. Focusing on the American diet, we evaluated the number of microplastic particles in commonly consumed foods in relation to their recommended daily intake. The potential for microplastic inhalation and how the source of drinking water may affect microplastic consumption were also explored. Our analysis used 402 data points from 26 studies, which represents over 3600 processed samples. Evaluating approximately 15% of Americans' caloric intake, we estimate that annual microplastics consumption ranges from 39000 to 52000 particles depending on age and sex. These estimates increase to 74000 and 121000 when inhalation is considered. Additionally, individuals who meet their recommended water intake through only bottled sources may be ingesting an additional 90000 microplastics annually, compared to 4000 microplastics for those who consume only tap water. These estimates are subject to large amounts of variation; however, given methodological and data limitations, these values are likely underestimates.

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Cox, K. D., Covernton, G. A., Davies, H. L., Dower, J. F., Juanes, F., & Dudas, S. E. (2019). Human Consumption of Microplastics. Environmental Science and Technology, 53(12), 7068–7074. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b01517

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