Health

How Much Plastic Are You Drinking?

How to detect, reduce, and avoid microplastic exposure from your tap water, bottled water, and beverages

You probably know that plastic pollution is a serious problem for the environment.

But did you know that you might be drinking plastic every day?

That’s right, plastic is not only in the oceans, landfills, and water systems, but also in your bottled water, tap water, and even food.

And we’re not talking about big pieces of plastic that you can see and avoid. We’re talking about tiny, microscopic particles of plastic that are invisible to the naked eye.

These particles are called microplastics, and they are everywhere.

They come from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as bottles, bags, and packaging. They also come from synthetic fibers, such as those in clothing, carpets, and furniture.

They can be released into the environment through washing, wearing, and disposing of these materials.

Microplastics can end up in the water we drink, either by leaching from plastic bottles, or by passing through water treatment plants that are not designed to filter them out.

They can also end up in the food we eat, either by being ingested by fish and other animals, or by being absorbed by plants and crops.

But how much plastic are we actually drinking? And what is it doing to our health?

The shocking numbers

According to a recent study from the University of Victoria in Canada, an average American could consume more than 70,000 tiny plastic particles per year, and even more for people who drink just bottled water1.

The study estimated that a person who drinks only tap water could ingest about 4,000 plastic particles annually, while a person who drinks only bottled water could ingest about 90,000 plastic particles annually2.

That’s a huge difference, and it shows how much plastic is leaching from the bottles into the water.

To put these numbers into perspective, imagine filling a teaspoon with plastic.

That’s about how much plastic you could be drinking in a year if you drink only bottled water. And that’s not counting the plastic you could be eating from your food.

The unknown effects

But what are the effects of drinking plastic on our health?

The truth is, we don’t really know.

As the study’s lead author, Kieran Cox, said, “There is no consensus on the potential health impacts of ingesting plastic particles, and establishing the sources and fates of microplastics in the body is a key knowledge gap in the field” 3.

Some experts have suggested that microplastics could cause inflammation, irritation, or damage to the digestive system, or that they could interfere with the absorption of nutrients and minerals.

Some have also raised concerns that microplastics could carry harmful chemicals, bacteria, or viruses, or that they could accumulate in the body over time and affect the endocrine, immune, or nervous systems.

However, these are only hypotheses, and there is not enough evidence to confirm or deny them.

More research is needed to understand the fate and effects of microplastics in the human body, and to assess the potential risks they pose to our health.

The possible solutions

So, what can we do to reduce our exposure to microplastics in our drinking water and food?

Here are some possible solutions:

  • Drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water. Filtered water is an affordable and effective way to reduce your exposure to most microplastics and chemical contaminants. You can use a carbon block filter, a reverse osmosis system, or a distiller to purify your tap water. And you can store your drinking water in stainless steel or other BPA-free water bottles, which are safe and environmentally friendly.
  • Avoid plastic packaging and disposable items. Plastic packaging and disposable items, such as cups, straws, cutlery, and bags, are major sources of microplastic pollution. You can reduce your plastic consumption by choosing reusable, recyclable, or biodegradable alternatives, such as glass, metal, wood, or paper. You can also buy products that have minimal or no plastic packaging, such as bulk foods, fresh produce, or homemade goods.
  • Wash your synthetic clothes less often and use a filter. Synthetic clothes, such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic, can shed thousands of microfibers every time they are washed. These microfibers can end up in the water system and the environment. You can reduce this by washing your synthetic clothes less often, using cold water and gentle cycles, and using a filter or a bag to catch the microfibers. You can also buy clothes that are made of natural fibers, such as cotton, wool, or hemp, which are more durable and biodegradable.
  • Support research and regulation. Research and regulation are essential to address the problem of microplastic pollution and its impacts on human health and the environment. You can support research by participating in citizen science projects, such as collecting and analyzing water samples, or by donating to organizations that conduct scientific studies on microplastics. You can also support regulation by signing petitions, contacting your representatives, or joining campaigns that advocate for stricter laws and standards on plastic production, use, and disposal.

The bottom line

Drinking plastic is not something we want to do, but it is something we might be doing without knowing it.

Microplastics are everywhere, and they could be affecting our health in ways we don’t understand yet.

But we can take action to reduce our exposure to microplastics, and to protect our health and the environment.

By drinking filtered tap water, avoiding plastic packaging, washing our synthetic clothes less often, and supporting research and regulation, we can make a difference.

Remember, every drop counts. And every bit of plastic matters.

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