Average person eats up to 120,000 bits of plastic a year

David Harding
People who drink water from plastic bottles are particularly at risk, the study found (Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP)

People eat up to 120,000 tiny pieces of plastic dust every year, a shocking new study has found.

The dust is released into the environment by products such as plastic bags or clothing.

Canadian researchers say the dust could get into body tissues which could impact on the immune system, but, as yet, the full health implications are unclear.

It is thought to be the first study to estimate how much plastic humans ingest.

Scientists at the University of Victoria in Canada analysed 26 studies on microplastic levels in things such as fish, sugar, salt, and water to work out how many plastic particles humans unknowingly consume.

The study examined the amount of plastic dumped at sea (REUTERS/Antonio Bronic)

They also added the microplastics we breathe from the air to come up with their final total.

Particularly at risk of consuming plastic are those people that drink bottled water — they can glug down 90,000 more pieces of plastic pollution than those who stick to tap water.

“These estimates are subject to large amounts of variation; however, given methodological and data limitations, these values are likely underestimates,” researchers wrote in the paper.

“These data suggest that microplastics will continue to be found in the majority, if not all, items intended for human consumption.”

Emma Priestland, of Friends of the Earth, said: “Studies like this are a scary indication of just how far plastic pollution can get.”

People walk near plastic waste and dead fishes in Senegal earlier this week (SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

However, Professor Alastair Grant, professor of ecology at the University of East Anglia, remained sceptical.

“They [researchers] calculate that an adult male consumes 142 plastic particles per day by mouth and inhales another 170.

“The rather large numbers that are given most prominence are annual estimates.

“No evidence is presented that these rates of consumption are a significant danger to human health.”

The paper was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.