by Trevor Nace: The amount of plastic found in our diet has begun to concern scientists as they find it popping up all over the world…
A recent study found that your table salt most likely contains microplastics sprinkled in with the salt.
The study sampled store bought salt from the United States, UK, France, and Spain and found that in most instances the ordinary table salt contained small fragments of plastic.
Specifically, they found microfibers from primarily water bottles, one of the most commonly used and discarded plastics in the world. Scientists are beginning to notice trends in the ubiquitous presence of plastics from the smallest creatures in the sea to large land mammals. It appears that plastics have made their way in almost every sector of our environment. A recent Nature journal article found surprising amounts of plastic within the fish we usually consume, leading to an array of health issues in fish.
The recent study, led by Sherri Mason from the State University of New York at Fredonia, found that Americans likely ingest over 660 plastic pieces per year just from the salt they eat. This is based on a normal dietary intake of salt, however, the majority of Americans eat much more than the recommended intake of salt.
We now know better the degree to which humans are consuming plastics every day. How does this affect long term health in human populations? That’s a hard question to answer, as there’s no real control group. To accurately test the impacts of eating plastics in your everyday diet, a study would require a control group that did not consume plastics. That’s something almost impossible to come by considering plastics have made their way into so many environments.
A 2013 study found that “Detectable levels of bisphenol A have been found in the urine of 95% of the adult population of the United States.” This study goes on to emphasize the need to rethink the use of plastics. As is typically the case, we jumped fully on board with the production and consumption of plastic material before fully understanding the long term risks associated with introducing such vast quantities of plastic into our environment.
It is estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year, the equivalent of a garbage truck dumping a full load of plastic into the world’s oceans once per minute.
It’s clear that plastics have become an increasingly large issue. We’ve seen an almost ubiquitous presence of plastics in our environment and studies have demonstrated the health risks associated with digesting plastics. However, 1 million plastic bottles are purchased per minute, most of which aren’t recycled. Plastic production is on pace to quadruple by 2050 and our systems to recycle that plastic cannot cope with current production rates.
While the problem is apparent the solution is difficult, as with many of the challenges we face in the coming decades. Switching to biodegradable plastics or use of paper products certainly helps. However, we are likely to still see mass production and plastic waste in the future.