Americans Eat & Inhale Over 70,000 Plastic Particles A Year

(TIME) Mandy Oaklander, June 16, 2019

Plastics have for years been used to make nearly everything that surrounds us. But along the way, they escaped the confines of packaging and objects and settled in the environment, the food we eat and the air we breathe.

Americans are consuming and breathing in a lot of plastic, finds a new analysispublished in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Based on available data, Americans ingest an estimated 74,000 to 121,000 microplastic particles every year, the researchers found. However, the true number is probably much higher, because for some likely sources of microplastics, there were no strong data available.

“As we put too much plastic into different environments,” says study author Kieran Cox, “it’s not surprising that it makes its way back to us.”

Microplastics get into food and air in several ways. Many start off as part of larger plastic objects, which over time fragment into smaller and smaller pieces until they become tiny: 5 millimeters or less in diameter, or as small as a sesame seed. People can’t see most of the plastics they consume. These are ingested by animals (who then become our food), and they float through the air until people inhale them. They also settle on the food that people eat.