TUCSON, Ariz. - Plastic is everywhere: Bags, bottles and packaging. For everything from hand lotion to dish soap to coffee pods. But plastic has become more than just a part of our lives. It has unwittingly become part of our diet, too.
“As we use all of this plastic, little tiny fragments break off of the water bottles or plastic bags or wrappings," says Consumer Reports Health Editor, Kevin Loria. "We call these little fragments microplastics. They’re five millimeters at their largest but they can be much smaller, they can be microscopic. And they end up in the food that we eat, the water that we drink and even the air that we breathe.”
According to early results from a forthcoming study from The University of New Castle in Australia, researchers estimate the average person consumes up to five grams of plastic a week. The equivalent of a credit card! The Plastics Industry Association said in a statement to Consumer Reports, that research has not shown "significant human health impacts" from microplastics, but this is something that requires further study.
“Experts that we’ve spoken with say that it’s very likely there are going to be at least some health effects," says Loria. "It’s possible, for example, that ingesting microplastics might increase our exposure to some other chemicals that we know are in some plastics. Chemicals that we know have harmful health effects.”
Some of these chemicals have been linked to a variety of potential health problems, including reduced fertility, obesity, organ damage, developmental delays in children and even cancer. So how can you eat less plastic? First, start by drinking tap water. Microplastic levels in bottled water can be twice as high as tap. Using the microwave? Don’t heat food in plastic. And, eat more fresh food. It may expose you to fewer concerning chemicals than wrapped, packaged and processed food.