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You’re eating microplastics in ways you don’t even realize

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We’re increasingly aware of how plastic is polluting our environment. Much recent attention has focused on how microplastics – tiny pieces ranging from 5 millimetres down to 100 nanometres in diameter – are filling the seas and working their way into the creatures that live in them. That means these ocean microplastics are entering the food chain and, ultimately, our bodies.

But fish and shellfish aren’t our only food sources that can contain microplastics. And, in fact, other sources that don’t come from the sea might be much more worrying.

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A portion of consumer-grade mussels in Europe could contain about 90 microplastics. Consumption is likely to vary greatly between nations and generations, but avid mussel eaters might eat up to 11,000 microplastics a year.

It’s harder to know how many microplastics we might be consuming from fish. Most studies to date have only analysed the stomach and gut content of these organisms, which are usually removed prior to consumption. But one study has found microplastics in fish liver, suggesting particles can get from digestive tissues to other body parts.

Microplastics have also been found in canned fish. Numbers identified were low, so the average consumer might only eat up to five microplastics from a portion of fish this way. The particles found might also come from the canning process or from the air.

Another marine food source of microplastics is sea salt. One kilogram can contain over 600 microplastics. If you eat the maximum daily intake of 5 grams of salt, this would mean you would typically consume three microplastics a day (although many people eat much more than the recommended amount).

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However, other studies have found varying amounts of microplastics in sea salt, possibly because of different extraction methods used. This is a widespread problem in microplastics research that makes it hard or impossible to compare studies. For example, one study seems to only have looked for microfibres (tiny strands of artificial materials such as polyester) while a further study only looked for microplastics larger than 200 micrometres.

The sea salt study mentioned above didn’t attempt to remove and count all the microplastics from its salt samples and instead gave an estimate based on the proportion of particles that were recovered. This means it showed 1 kilogram of salt contained at least 600 microplastics – but the actual figure could be a lot higher.

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Non-marine sources

Despite these findings, other research demonstrates that far more microplastics in our food are likely to come from other sources than the sea. Land animals also eat microplastics although – as with fish – we tend not to eat their digestive systems. There’s limited data about this part of the food industry, but a study of chickens raised in gardens in Mexico found an average of 10 microplastics per chicken gizzard – a delicacy in some parts of the world.

Scientist have also found microplastics in honey and beer. We might be swallowing tens of microplastics with each bottle of the latter.

Perhaps the biggest known source of microplastics that we consume is bottled water. When researchers examined a variety of types of glass and plastic water bottles, they found microplastics in most of them. Single-use water bottles contained between two and 44 microplastics per litre, while returnable bottles (designed for collection under a deposit scheme) contained between 28 and 241 microplastics per litre. The microplastics came from the packaging, which means we could be exposing ourselves to more of them every time we fill up a plastic bottle in order to reduce waste.

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There is also evidence that microplastics in food come from indoor dust. A recent study estimated that we could get an annual dose of almost 70,000 microplastics from the dust that settles on to our dinner – and that is only one of our daily meals.

The ConversationSo, yes, we are eating small numbers of microplastics from marine products. But it may only take drinking a litre of bottled water a day to consume more microplastics than you would from being an avid shellfish eater. And the other question scientists have yet to answer when it comes to microplastics in our food is how much harm they actually do.

By Christina Thiele, PhD Candidate in Marine Microplastics, University of Southampton and Malcolm David Hudson, Associate Professor in Environmental Sciences, University of Southampton

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Michael Moore breaks down why Trump is ‘scared’ of The Squad: ‘They’re the force out there!’

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Legendary filmmaker Michael Moore revealed why President Donald Trump is so scared of the women of color in Congress known as The Squad.

The Squad is made up of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

"So, Michael, when your political opposition tells you this is the play we’re going to run and the president underscores it, and they’re running this play, is there any — is The Squad blameless for giving the president a steady stream of oxygen and ammunition?" MSNBC's Brian Williams asked.

"I’m so glad he’s that frightened of them, both he and [Benjamin] Netanyahu are scared of them. And the reason they are is — and this is why Trump isn’t as dumb as he comes off," Moore said.

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Trump has spent his vacation golfing, watching cable TV — and panicking about a recession: AP

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While President Donald Trump has been able to golf frequently while on vacation in New Jersey, he may not return to DC well-rested.

"Trump has spent much of the week at his New Jersey golf club, many of his mornings on the links, his afternoons watching cable television and his evenings calling confidants and business executives to get their take on the market’s volatility," the Associated Press reported Friday.

"Though he has expressed private worries about Wall Street, he is also skeptical about some of the weaker economic indicators, wondering if the media and establishment figures are manipulating the data to make him look bad, according to two Republicans close to the White House, not authorized to discuss private conversations," the AP noted.

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Rick Wilsons destroys Trump for ’punitive ‘dickishness’ and ‘performative assh*lery’ on HBO’s Real Time

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Republican strategist Rick Wilson slammed the Trump administration on HBO's "Real Time" with Bill Maher on Friday.

Wilson is the author of the 2018 book Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever.

The GOP consultant said America needs to replace the "Goddamn oil lobbyist who runs the f*cking EPA right now."

"This is just punitive dickishness by these people," Wilson charged. "They're just doing this to be *ssholes, they want their base to be like, 'we're taking those regulations away."

"It is just performative assh*lery," he added.

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