The study stated that people who only use bottled water may drink an additional 90,000 microplastics annually compared to drinking tap water

By Ian Horswill

Posted on June 6, 2019

That bottled water you bought might have more in it than you think.

You have probably read or heard about the sperm whale found with 6 kilos (13 pounds) of plastic inside its stomach or the plastic shards awash in rivers and oceans.

However, microplastics are also getting into people and those that drink bottle water consume the most microplastics.

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A scientific study, published today in Environmental Science & Technology, stated that microplastic consumption in humans ranged from 74,000 to 121,000 particles per year, depending on age and sex.

People who only use bottled water may drink an additional 90,000 microplastics annually compared with those who drink only tap water.

“Given methodological and data limitations, these values are likely underestimates,” the study said.

Researchers analysed the number of microparticles in fish, shellfish, added sugars, salts, alcohol, tap or bottled water and air.

Microplastics are extremely small pieces of plastic debris that come from multiple sources, such as the breakdown of larger plastic products or via food and water containers during packaging.

“Microplastics are ubiquitous across ecosystems, yet the exposure risk to humans is unresolved,” the study said.

Researchers examined 26 previous studies analysing all the routes that plastics can enter our bodies, the American Chemical Society (ACS) said in a press release summarising the findings. They studied overall 3,600 samples of food and drink sources. Meat and vegetables were left out of this study due to lack of data.

In a statement, chemistry expert at RMIT, Professor Oliver Jones stressed that “no harm has yet been demonstrated to humans from microplastics”.

“[But] that said, the data are certainly a wake-up call to the potential scale of the problem,” Professor Jones said.

“Microplastics are an area where more science is welcome as we simply don’t yet know enough about the issue to make robust conclusions about the possible risk.”