Researchers took data from 26 studies that measured microplastics found in the air, water, fish, sugar, salt, and beer. They then used US government dietary guidelines to determine how many plastic particles people would normally eat every year. The research was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
The researchers found that the average person eats at least 50,000 microplastic particles a year and inhales a similar amount in the air. Some of the plastic pieces are small enough to penetrate human tissues, potentially triggering immune reactions.
The actual amount of plastics the average person consumes each year is likely much higher than the researchers estimated. Most food and drink types have not been tested for plastic contamination, meaning the study only analyzed 15% of total calorie intake.
It was also found that drinking a lot of bottled water radically increased the amount of consumed microplastic particles.
Some of the best data on plastic contamination is with water. Bottled water contains 22 times more microplastic particles than tap water. A person who only drinks bottled water would consume 130,000 microplastic particles a year from water alone, compared to just 4,000 particles from tap water.