back to article Barbie Girl was wrong? Life is plastic, it's not fantastic: We each ingest '121,000 pieces' of microplastics a year

Humans consume and inhale up to 121,000 bits of microplastic every year, per person, according to estimates published in a study this week, and the authors warn they may be underestimating that figure. Microplastics are defined as particles of plastic measuring less than 130 micrometers in diameter. At that size, the tiny …

  1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge
    Stop

    What fraction of a gram ?

    The study seems to be deliberately using alarming figures (the number of particles) rather than the combined weight of the particles which is probably far less than one gram.

    Anyone who commutes into central London by tube or bus probably inhales more soot particles per day than their yearly intake of microplastic bits.

    The discharge of plastic into the oceans has attracted a lot of press recently with figures such as over 8 million tons per year to make it seem a huge problem - however the oceans have about 1.4 million million million tons of water so the plastic pollution level works out to less than 10 micrograms per ton of seawater per year. (Studies also show that 90% of the plastic that enters the oceans does so in rivers in Asia and Africa (see https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/90-of-plastic-polluting-our-oceans-comes-from-just-10-rivers/ for more details) so efforts such as banning single use plastics in Europe will have very little effect on marine pollution.)

    1. TimR

      Re: What fraction of a gram ?

      Duncan - whilst not disagreeing with you, the article you reference can be interpreted differently to a degree. A couple of examples:

      1. you suggest that 8 million tons is negligible compared to the size of the oceans. However, the article states "More than 8 million tons of it ends up in the ocean every year. If we continue to pollute at this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050."

      2. you suggest that banning single use plastics in Europe will have little effect. But what proportion of the plastic from the rivers in Asia & Africa is exported waste from Europe?

      Just saying issues like this are not black & white

      1. Muppet Boss

        Re: What fraction of a gram ?

        1. Which might be true in the same sense as saying there will be more people than fish by 2050. Safe assumptions! There will still be more water by sheer weight though ;)

        2. Oh, you need to see by yourself, what's happening with plastic pollution in Asia & Africa is horrible. I think Indonesia alone produces more untreated plastic waste that is thrown into the ocean than all "developed" countries together. China and Indonesia together produce more ocean plastic waste than all other countries combined. Europe is less than 4%. What is happening in Asia and Africa is truly, truly horrible and better be stopped.

        https://ourworldindata.org/plastic-pollution#share-of-global-total-mismanaged-plastic-waste-by-country

        Btw those scary plastic particles. I am surely our XVIII century ancestors with <40 years life expectancy would be terrified!

      2. Unicornpiss Silver badge
        Alert

        @seawater

        The most disturbing is how much is being found in the bodies of sea creatures. I'm not going to include a link. Do a web search for "plastic in sea creatures" and there's a wealth of disturbing information there.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: @seawater

          The most disturbing is how much is being found in the bodies of sea creatures. I'm not going to include a link. Do a web search for "plastic in sea creatures" and there's a wealth of disturbing information there.

          I don't need to look it up.. Across the road is a guy who tours universities lecturing on "food health" and the problems with a lot of the things we ingest. He has a tendency to leave people in no doubt how disturbing things are with the levels of toxins we can find in fish and other sea creatures. Not just plastics either.

          I don't believe in "climate change" or "global warming" in the sense of catastrophic this or that in before 2005the next 50 years. I do believe the climate changes, up and down, and much of that based on solar activity[1]. I've seen stuff not come and not go, that's made me a skeptic.

          But I also believe we should be protecting our environment - reducing pollution, reducing waste, protecting our energy resources, getting off 'fossil fuels'. And perhaps one of the biggest is protecting our oceans. How much of the oxygen we need is produced by phytoplankton(sp)? What is the effect of these microplastics on them? Is it worth the risk to be dumping all this waste into the ocean when the air we breath largely depends on it?

          We need to clean things up and look after our environment, not keep polluting as we are. Otherwise, we won't need to worry about rising sea levels - we won't be around long enough for that to be an issue.

          We have one planet. We all share the same air. Let's make a go of looking after it. I don't have kids myself and probably never will - but I have kids in and around my family I care about. My closest friend's first son is a matter of a few weeks old. My oldest friend is near his end and will likely die from COPD. It's a terrible way to die, and not the sort of suffering I even want to contemplate this little baby having to face maybe only in 20 or 30 years time. And if you don't care about others, or the next generation, do it for yourself - especially if you're a Christian. Breathing problems is NOT a nice way to die. And how you treat this planet - you will have to stand before God and give account for every bit of His gift you wasted or dis-respected. Forgiven or not, we will have to account for that - do you want to face that? Yes, sadly (and shamefully!) many 'christians' are amongst the worst polluters - the worst of 'this is my planet, I don't have to care for it, God gave me "dominion" over it therefore I can abuse it any way I want' - God didn't give us this beautiful place to destroy, He gave us a garden playground to enjoy and care for!

          [1] From a Biblical POV I do believe in a form of "catastrophic climate change" - the warnings given 2,000 years and more ago that the world would face toxic algal blooms, catastrophic storms and other problems - not so much because of the pollution we poison God's Creation with (although that's a part of it) but because of our selfish natures where we pollute and don't give a hoot. If you built a beautiful place for someone, labouring to give them the best that you could (or made any true "gift from the heart"), and they thanked you for it but then didn't respect it ('regifting' is such a wonderful practice, right? :( ) and even began to destroy it though selfish carelessness, don't you think you'd get annoyed as time goes on? This I am sure is what God feels, and as we push Him away He gives us what we wants and leaves us to our devices.[2][3]

          [2] Yes, I did intend to word and spell things like that.

          [3] </rant>

    2. KittenHuffer

      Re: What fraction of a gram ?

      There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics!

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: What fraction of a gram ?

      I think number of particles is an entirely reasonable measure. If you were to ingest one small piece of plastic it would probably appear out the other end a day or two later. But what's your body going to do against the same weight of plastic delivered in micrometer-sized bits?

      1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

        Re: What fraction of a gram ?

        Just like the body does with other particular pollutants such as soot, it will deal with microplastics by not absorbing them. For a substance to be absorbed from the digestive system it needs to be dissolved - as the microplastics do not dissolve they will be excreted. Microplastics that are inhaled (a tiny fraction of the total) will be trapped in mucus in the lungs and eventually be removed along with soot and similar pollutants into the digestive system.

        What should be shown in the studies (but will not because it would detract from their message) is what fraction of the particles is actually absorbed into the body. My own guess is that far less than 1% of ingested particles actually get into the body.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: What fraction of a gram ?

          "For a substance to be absorbed from the digestive system it needs to be dissolved"

          Not true. Small enough bits can pass through the gaps in between the cells lining the digestive tract.

          "Microplastics that are inhaled (a tiny fraction of the total) will be trapped in mucus in the lungs and eventually be removed"

          Probably true for the larger bits, but still there is a certain size where particles will be absorbed, just like tiny soot particles can be absorbed. (Think about it - if our lungs had the capacity to clear out all tiny particles, people wouldn't have lung problems from living next to a coal power station, working in coal mines etc)

          "What should be shown in the studies ... is what fraction of the particles is actually absorbed into the body"

          Yes, that would be a more useful measure (but also probably much harder to determine)

          1. DougS Silver badge

            White lung disease?

            Think about it - if our lungs had the capacity to clear out all tiny particles, people wouldn't have lung problems from living next to a coal power station, working in coal mines etc

          2. John H Woods

            re: but also probably much harder to determine?

            I would say it is probably easier to determine, though less pleasant. One is estimating when evaluating number of particles ingested, but a weeks urine and stool collection would probably give pretty accurate figures for excreted particles, as I suspect the exhaled, perspired and shed totals are relatively small.

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: What fraction of a gram ?

          There are a whole series of interesting digestive disorders (Chron, LGS, IBS, etc...) which feature things passing through the digestive wall lining that in theory shouldn't.

          I don't think enough studies have been done on the effect of microplastics on the digestive system or after passing through the digestive wall and ending up in other places in the body to be claim that they have no effect. Microplastics on the 130µm scale are about the same size as human cells (up to 100µm).

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What fraction of a gram ?

          While it's nice that probably most of the plastic will pass through it likely means, in many places, that it will wind up in the ocean where it gets ingested by fish, which we'll eat only to excrete the same plastic. It's starting to sound like an inert plastic parasite with it's own little plastic circle of life but being inert it doesn't have to reproduce because we'll always just make more.

        4. BeeTerrestris

          Re: What fraction of a gram ?

          You missed the point about the chemicals contained within the microplastics which could be dangerous as they accumulate in the body

          1. rmason Silver badge

            Re: What fraction of a gram ?

            And in the bodies of those things many of us eat.

        5. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: What fraction of a gram ?

          A physiologist writes. I would love to know the route by which lung mucus ends up in the digestive system. There are other routes for lung mucus than down the oesophagus. I'm asthmatic but live above the beach here in Dundee and it manifests, unlike when I lived in London, just as a gradual build up of fluid in my lungs, I can feel it.

          But when I got for a run after a period of abstinence from exercise then I will cough for about two hours afterwards. Much of this comes up and is expectorated rather than swallowed. But that's just me. Coughing it up is always an option.

          BTW the stomach acids will make short work of any lung mucus. Mucopollysaccharides (sounds like a plastic, doesn't it?) will break down at those pH's. I doubt much of it makes it out intact.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: What fraction of a gram ?

        just think - there are tiny particles of WHALE PISS in every bit of sea water you get into your mouth and nose while swimming in the ocean.

        Also, think of all of the RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT from above ground atomic explosions in the 1950's, Chernobyl, 3 Mile Island, SL/1, and Fukushima, and so far [never mind the fact that Mr. Sun is putting out enough rays to give the average person 100mrem per year and it's worse when you're at 30,000 feet in an airplane] it's all "below minimum detectable levels" because [after all] the SOLUTION to POLLUTION is DILUTION. Just ask someone whose task it is to dilute some kinds of toxic waste down to below the maximum allowed discharge concentration level before dumping it into the sewers. Yeah, it's "a thing". Or, at least it WAS a thing at one time.

        Yeah, that "below minimum detectability" thing lets a LOT of "pollutants" circulate around, through everything. And yet, nobody's growing extra limbs or developing odd diseases because of it [or else it'd be front page news, because ALARMISTS _LOVE_ to have 'see I told you so' stories manipulating people into various behaviors and knee-jerk reactions, for the power and control and money it all brings].

        Maybe it's why we only live 100 years instead of 1000... but how can you POSSIBLY know when things like bacteria and viruses are far more prevalent and a LOT more dangerous, and our immune systems have to constantly fight all that stuff off to prevent us from decaying to death.

        Seriously, I call "Henny Penny" on this one. The sky is NOT falling, and I'll take that famous advice from the Hitch Hiker's Guide: "Don't Panic".

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: What fraction of a gram ?

          just think - there are tiny particles of WHALE PISS in every bit of sea water you get into your mouth and nose while swimming in the ocean.

          Yup. There's lots of crap in most things we deal with. My neighbours dog took a dump on my lawn today. Next time I mow the lawns (assuming they don't remove it), it'll wind up as powder some of which I will inhale. Hell, if the wind is blowing in the right direction I've probably already inhaled some of it!

          But that doesn't mean we should, or can, continue dumping this waste into our home. Sure, I don't like that my government got rid of the 'free'[1] plastic bags but that was becuase they were quite useful, and there are many other plastic wrappers and containers that are even more wasteful (individually shrink-wrapped cucumbers anyone? Individually packaged bits of fruit?). And whatever we here in NZ do is nothing on a global scale - our entire national output of waste/pollution for our whole history is but a few seconds of pollution from many other countries. Does that mean we shouldn't do what we can to improve things?

          I hate pollution for the simple reasons that yes, actually it does harm people (directly and indirectly), harms the planet, makes a mess of things and may do irreparable to the ecosystem we know and supposedly love. I don't know if there's a way to deal with these plastics or not (aside from those that eventually find their way into ocean trenches and disappear in subduction zones - that will take a while!), but I do know that if we need to deal with it it'll be expensive and hard.

          The easiest solution is to not keep dumping our waste into the ground. If you think dilution is a good example then I suggest you set yourself up a water supply that you don't add to or take from. Give yourself a million litres, flush all your waste into it, process it, drink it, grow your food from it, flush your waste in, filter, drink etc and see how long you can keep it going. In time it'll be polluted beyond what you can recover from.

          God gave us a planet that does an incredible job of putting up with our shit, but there's only so much shit even a planet can deal with. We're already at the place where we can detect this stuff every where.

          I personally don't want to be eating plastic. I deal with my rubbish in the most planet-friendly ways I know how, but despite my efforts I am forced to deal with other people's pollution. I have no choice but to eat plastic because too few others are willing to take the small and simple steps of looking after their patch.

          Yes, the planet can process our crap for some time to come yet, no these plastics are not doing damage at current levels. But that is no excuse to keep dumping our rubbish in the way we do.

          [1] Yes I know I was paying for it in my food prices - but I note that the food prices didn't reduce by any amount when they stopped, so by today's standard they were 'free' :)

    4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

      I am one of your upvoters, but I suspect that you will get some downvotes, because you did not take into account the effect of krill, fish and larger marine predators, which have a concentrating effect on the small plastic particles within the overall food chain. In addition, natural water movement tends to concentrate larger plastic pieces in small numbers of ocean locations.

      I believe that we have to tackle the use of plastics, particularly in the countries where the problem is most prevalent, but you have to think that the use of plastics for food and drink packaging in poorer countries is probably one of the largest factors in improving food hygiene.

      This gives us conflicting priorities, as we want to increase health but reduce plastic waste at the same time (although I believe that we absolutely have to slow down or stop the rise in world population).

      Whoever said that the world was a simple place!

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

        "I believe that we have to tackle the use of plastics"

        Here comes the KNEE JERK REACTION. That all-too-infamous solution of CONTROLLING OTHER PEOPLE because *YOU* *FEEL*.

        Control YOURSELF, *FIRST*. Leave *OTHER* people *OUT* of your *FEEL* schemes.

        And now, I'll go back to doing things with plastic, again. LOTS of plastic. Like this plastic keyboard, plastic mouse, with plastic soda bottles for my soda, plastic water jugs for my water, R.O. water from machines out front of the grocery store (which no doubt contain LOTS of plastic parts including plastic hoses and ion exchange resin beads for that final step in the process), plastic cups and plates for non-breakable portability of food stuffs, plastic phones up to my face, plastic headphones for listening to music, a plastic pick for playing my guitar, plastic threads mixed with natural fibers in my clothing [so they don't easily disintegrate] and so on. Oh yeah, and a throwaway plastic bag to wrap bananas in so that they don't get contaminated from the meat, which is also wrapped in plastic so we don't have to get meat germs all over ourselves when taking it home from the grocery store. Salmonella and E Coli and all that, STOPPED by the use of PLASTIC! (or do you want to CUT DOWN TREES and wrap it in BUTCHER PAPER like was done until the 1960's ?)

        You know it's JUST polymers, right? They're chemically INERT, and you KNEW that, right?

        It's those "we have to tackle the use of XXX" people who are a PAIN IN MY ASS and need to be TACKLED INSTEAD...

        1. 9Rune5

          Trees

          (or do you want to CUT DOWN TREES and wrap it in BUTCHER PAPER like was done until the 1960's ?)

          I love plastics too, but I don't think I'll mind an increase in wood chopping. In some places the forests are growing too thick and whenever there is a little forest fire it soon escalates out of control. A little culling would probably benefit everyone.

          (I just realised I quoted you out of context, making it look like you are asking for trees to be wrapped in butcher's paper -- which I also don't mind much)

          1. usbac

            Re: Trees

            I agree about the forests. The problem is that there are a bunch of wacko environmental groups that would raise holy hell that "you're destroying the pretty forests" if anyone tried to do something about it.

            I'm definitely someone that enjoys the outdoors. I don't want to see the environment poisoned. The problem is the idiot radical groups that don't have a proper scientific understanding of things, but react only on emotion (I think due to a lack of intellect, sometimes). These groups have a lot of political power in places like California. This is one of the main reasons for the huge wildfire problems in California.

          2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

            Re: Trees

            From an environmental point of view, butcher paper is a pretty green thing. It's not high quality paper so can be made from 2nd or 3rd recycling, and, as it often ends up contaminated (grease, blood, pizza topping) then it can go into either the biogas generation with the other waste food or the incinerator with the other black-bag waste. The CO2 that the trees absorbed is then released back to the atmosphere where it is food for the trees planted to replace the ones cut down for the butchers paper high-quality predecessor. It's a green closed loop - take one environment, add energy and bingo.

        2. defiler Silver badge

          Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

          Bob, stop being a tit.

          Nobody is seriously trying to propose an outright ban on all plastics. The plastic in your keyboard, your car interior, your food packaging etc etc are all safe for now. People are talking about the plastic microbeads that are used to make shampoo and conditioner shinier when it comes out of the bottle.

          Fuck that stuff - we don't need it. It pleases us for 3 seconds, and lingers in the environment for decades, perhaps longer. Sort of like kids :-/

          Just because the use of some plastics is good, the use of all the plastics everywhere is terrible.

          1. PlunderBunny

            Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

            If my memory of this article

            https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/04/microplastics-can-travel-on-the-wind-polluting-pristine-regions/

            is correct, most micro plastics are probably created by burning plastic. Ironically, this may be plastic that's exported for recycling.

            IMHO, that's not an excuse to give up recycling - we just need to pressure (local) governments to do recycling locally.

            1. defiler Silver badge

              Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

              Fair enough - I didn't know that. Still don't need pearlescent shampoo, though. That's your low-hanging fruit right there!

              1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

                Plastic microbeads have already been banned...

        3. jmch Silver badge

          Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

          "That all-too-infamous solution of CONTROLLING OTHER PEOPLE because *YOU* *FEEL*."

          Ah, been reading too much Ayn Rand, have you?

          Here's the thing - there's 7 billion people on the planet. Asking each other to behave respectfully by not fucking up each other's environment isn't controlling, it's common courtesy. It shouldn't even need to be said.

          The Randian free-for-all where individuals and companies dump their (literal and metaphorical) shit on anywhere and anyone else just because they can, and because it's an externality that's not priced into the market... that attitude is exactly why so much of the planet is a polluted shithole.

          Yes, I agree with the gist of your argument that plastics are useful, yes they are incredibly useful and I am not (and no one in their right mind is) advocating for their removal. Just raising an awareness that this stuff takes thousands of years to degrade and to choose to use alternatives where possible. eg. if your meat is wrapped in plastic, you don't need to wrap your friggin' bananas!

          1. defiler Silver badge

            Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

            Watched people in Tesco on Sunday literally grabbing bags to put their bananas in. I mean really... They've made it halfway around the world without a bag, and they're joined together, in individual wrappers. I wonder if they get bags of crisps and put them into bags...

            1. Muppet Boss

              Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

              In SE Asia they have really small plastic bags for a single chewing gum pack... a pack of cigarettes... a plastic spoon... a plastic "bag" for a plastic cup... and they will pack all these plastic bags in a plastic bag...

            2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

              Have you considered that they want something with a handle to carry them more conveniently with? Or to put other things in?

              1. Kiwi Silver badge

                Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

                Have you considered that they want something with a handle to carry them more conveniently with? Or to put other things in?

                I do miss our bags - they were good for multi uses including kitchen rubbish bags, carrying stuff etc.

                But after the NZ bag ban (which isn't in effect yet but pretty much everywhere has done it) , it didn't take me long to pick up a couple of larger plastic bins that go in the car when I go shopping, and they actually save a trip or two when I get home (I have a long walk from the carpark to the house! :( ).

                Didn't take us long to adapt.

              2. defiler Silver badge

                Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

                Have you considered that they want something with a handle to carry them more conveniently with? Or to put other things in?

                Ah! Now I understand the downvote. I mean in the fruit aisle, not at the till. At the till they'll have put them into another bag. If it were apples or oranges I'd totally understand the need to keep them all together, but the bananas are already in a protective sleeve and bound together.

                By the time you're at the till, yes, chuck them into your bag with other stuff!

                1. Kiwi Silver badge

                  Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

                  Have you considered that they want something with a handle to carry them more conveniently with? Or to put other things in?

                  Ah! Now I understand the downvote. I mean in the fruit aisle, not at the till.

                  Strangely, most of our supermarkets provide conveniently-placed trolleys for those who wish to grab a whole swag of stuff, and smaller baskets for those who only want to grab a few items. So as you mentioned, really no need for extra packaging. They also provide bags there so you can keep your loose tomatoes together, or protect your lettuce from your meat.

                  But then there are people who seem to be unable to figure out how to operate a shopping trolley or pick up a basket as they enter the store - perhaps some of them also had trouble working out which was the correct icon to click to upvote you? :)

        4. 96percentchimp

          Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

          At the risk of engaging with a libertarian nut who writes in caps lock (always a guarantee of lunacy):

          My bananas are already wrapped. In banana skin. It's hygienic and biodegradable. I don't keep them next to meat. And I wash them before use. No plastic required (for the bananas).

        5. DuncanLarge Silver badge

          Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

          (or do you want to CUT DOWN TREES)

          YEEEEEEESSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      2. Muppet Boss

        Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

        Talking about urine and faeces, before starting to enjoy the fine odour of exhaust fumes, city dwellers had to be content with horse manure.

        /sarcarm but true, cars greatly improved ecology ;)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

          Horse manure might smell a bit, and possibly contains some nasties if you poke your nose too close to it, but combustion engine emissions definitely contain nasty pollutants and are worse for your health and the wider environment, not better!

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

            Horse manure might smell a bit, and possibly contains some nasties if you poke your nose too close to it, but combustion engine emissions definitely contain nasty pollutants and are worse for your health and the wider environment, not better!

            It's the handling of it that's the issue. If you handle it with your bare hands then go and prepare food that you eat raw (eg make a PB&J sammy) you'll have issues. Maybe if you're around it unmasked as well.

            But if you wear gloves and/or wash your hands, you won't have any issues whatsoever. We can't do that with vehicle emissions - those fine particles get everywhere regardless of whether or not we see them.

      3. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: What fraction of a gram ? @Duncan

        I believe that we have to tackle the use of plastics, particularly in the countries where the problem is most prevalent, but you have to think that the use of plastics for food and drink packaging in poorer countries is probably one of the largest factors in improving food hygiene.

        I have to agree - plastic has been a significant factor in improving food hygiene for many.

        I've been impressed with the overall quality I've found of the sadly too few samples of "fully compostable" plastics I've found. If they're anywhere near as good as made out, this could be the answer.

        (Of course, they could well do 50x the environmental harm in their manufacture - that I don't know yet!)

    5. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: What fraction of a gram ?

      I'd be more worried about its surface area as that will determine the amount that is released by your digestion into your bloodstream. Its only petroleum product after all - the stuff you can spill on a piece of ground and stops all plants growing for 20 years!

      1. Paul Kinsler

        Re: its surface area

        I agree, but also want to correct it somewhat by assuming a surface layer thickness from which contaminants might be leached (by e.g. diffusing to the surface); thus for large pieces (all linear sizes larger than the layer thickness) it would indeed be proportional to surface area, but for small or thin pieces (with at least one dimension less or comparable to the layer thickness), it would be proportional to their volume.

        Of course, then we have to allow for the different chemical environments in the body, their effect on the surface layer, and their ability to absorb or transport contaminants out of the plastic ... etc etc ... :-)

    6. jmch Silver badge

      Re: What fraction of a gram ?

      Well, if microplastics are defined as size < 130um. shape isn't defined, but even assuming average size 100um in all dimensions, arranging 100k pieces in a 10X100*100 formation would make a cuboid of 1mm * 10mm * 10mm. That's a pretty small amount... however that's barely half the story:

      On the one hand, the study looks at these microplastic bits in food/drinks and concludes that we ingest or inhale them - fair enough! However just because we ingest something doesn't necessarily mean it's absorbed by the body. The article says "At that size, the tiny pieces CAN slip inside and spread throughout the human body". That does not mean all or even most of the particles DO slip inside. A significant percentage is probably not absorbed and is passed out.

      Similairly for inhalation (and, though I'm no biologist, I would think that the lungs don't absorb as large particles as the gut does). There is a mechanism that traps tiny particles in mucus that is then coughed out (same as it does for all that London soot).

      On one hand, if something is toxic, it can be harmful even at smaller amounts than that, so of course it's anyway a good idea to minimise plastic pollution in any form.

      1. maffski

        Re: What fraction of a gram ?

        On one hand, if something is toxic, it can be harmful even at smaller amounts than that, so of course it's anyway a good idea to minimise plastic pollution in any form.

        Careful there, I think you just tripped over Chesterton's fence. If the number of lives extended by plastics are greater than the number shortened then minimising them is a bad idea. There's a reason we package so much food in plastics.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: What fraction of a gram ?

          "There's a reason we package so much food in plastics."

          Yes, which is that it's more sanitary. But there is also a different reason so much (non-food) packaging is plastic, and that has more to do with cost (plastic being cheaper) and marketing BS (where extra 'luxury' packaging can make piece-of-crap-widget look like a not-so-crap-widget).

          The other thing with plastic food packaging is that a lot of it isn't done to be more sanitary, but for convenience. Especially fruit and veg packaged individually

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: What fraction of a gram ?

            It's also done for a lot of products where it's totally unnecessary, simply to reduce theft.

            Bubble wrapping a pair of pliers for example.

    7. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

      Re: 90% of the plastic [in] the oceans [comes from] Asia and Africa

      While that's certainly true on a global scale, one should not ignore the local aspect of plastic pollution. A lot of plastic garbage ends up in our shores that doesn't come from Asia or Africa. Capri has recently banned singe-use plastics from the island, because of record levels of pollution that definitely didn't come from China. Local actions will have local effects and mustn't be underestimated.

    8. user0

      Re: What fraction of a gram ?

      Arguing about how the stats are put across is neither here nor there - I would suggest that the sheer variety of plastics we ingest are the alarming factor here rather than the amount - there have been no studies to show the effects of ingesting plastics containing a spectrum of chemicals, from the 'relatively' benign (BPA/BPE free food containers) to the downright toxic (eg PVC - containing BPA, lead, phthalates, mercury, dioxins and cadmium).

      Anyone arguing that we shouldn't be alarmed about this stuff needs a reality check - the last few decades have seen an explosion in the use of manufactured chemicals and substances in our environment (including pesticides, processed food, cleaning products, antibiotics and hormones in meat, clothes, toys, hormones and other chemicals in treated water, the list is endless) that the last 2 generations have been ingesting, with everyone wondering why cancer rates and other conditions are skyrocketing...

      Nothing to see here, move along....

      1. Diogenes Silver badge

        Re: What fraction of a gram ?

        Lots of weasel words.

        I have calculated that the authors of this report may have a 1 in 10 chance of being struck by an object as large as the moon.

  2. Fading Silver badge
    Pint

    And we are all still alive.......

    So what's the problem again?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: And we are all still alive.......

      So were the guys who went into Chernobyl.

      For a few days.

      1. holmegm Bronze badge

        Re: And we are all still alive.......

        So were the guys who went into Chernobyl.

        For a few days.

        We've been heavily using plastics for way more than a few days.

      2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: And we are all still alive.......

        Of the three blokes who went into the water to turn on the pumps, all three survived hospitalisation and two of them are still alive today.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: And we are all still alive.......

      That seems to be a generic response to any public health issue. Of course anyone who was killed by whatever it was isn't able to contradict it.

      1. Fading Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: And we are all still alive.......

        Or perhaps the measured response to the latest hysteria. So far there has been little proven detriment to human or krill life from "micro plastics" (which seems to cover a lot of non-plastic polymers as well) . Yes it is a disgrace that so much plastic waste is being dumped in the oceans but the "OMG" hysteria over unproven health risks is not warranted.

      2. defiler Silver badge

        Re: And we are all still alive.......

        Obligatory XKCD for illustration (alt text)

        https://xkcd.com/674/

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: And we are all still alive.......

      "So what's the problem again?"

      Ask Henny Penny. Her son, Chicken Little, thought the sky was falling when an acorn hit him on the head, and now she's running around (like a chicken with its head cut off, flopping and twitching and trying to run in a random uncontrolled manner) screaming how "THE SKY IS FALLING!" and a bunch of alarmist idiots are buying into it as if they have a PSYCHOLOGICAL NEED for "the doom and gloom".

      Same story, different names, same plot line over and over and over [and the "solution" will be the same too, RESTRICT EVERYONE ELSE'S FREEDOM except for those who are 'more equal than others', using public tax money to pay for it all].

      1. Alistair Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: And we are all still alive.......

        Hey Bob:

        Hope your vaccines are up to date. Y'know, that Liberal Left Wing Global Conspiracy to Determine the New World Order FORCING you to inject yourself with some horrible junk that will make you a Leftie Commie Commentard.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: And we are all still alive.......

        "solution" will be the same too, RESTRICT EVERYONE ELSE'S FREEDOM

        Hows about my freedom to breath fairly clean fresh air? Or to eat food that isn't polluted?

        I hate controllers as much as any sane person (and many not-so-sane), but I still recognise that while I may have the right to all sorts of freedoms, one thing I don't have the right to is to harm another through outright selfishness.

        And you should be thankful of that. If I decided I had the right to do as I please regardless of the harm to others, those who pollute my air would be first against the wall. (Of course, I have no idea what I'd do with you once I got you against the wall.. maybe ask you to clean it or paint it or something... :) )

  3. Hairy Spod

    I wonder if the effects plastic on fish making some of them take on female characterics also explains the recent seeming explosion in transgender issues we seem to be having

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      issues we seem to be having

      It's not often we get a representative of the piscine IT community posting here. Welcome! :-)

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: issues we seem to be having

        Your comment was off the scale...

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Coat

      that only happens when the fish are getting plastic breast implants...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nope

      If it was causing feminisation in humans due to xenoestrogenic effects, then men would be developing cracking moobs but not turning transgender. Boffins believe that to be a neurological thing set in the womb. The trans 'explosion' is mostly people coming out of the woodwork through greater awareness that it's a thing; and has 'exploded' to all of 0.1% of the population.

      -a tran

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: Nope

        If it was causing feminisation in humans due to xenoestrogenic effects, then men would be developing cracking moobs

        That could explain things! Guess I should stop eating the processed cheese!

  4. Zuagroasta

    Are there any health effects related to microplastics... at all? Or is this only another way for the media to sell and get revenue through panic?

    1. PlunderBunny

      Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence

      I'm not aware that there is any concrete evidence yet, but absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. We simply don't know yet, but there's a long-term world-wide experiment being conducted to test this. The problem is that we're all experimental subjects, and the experiment has no control group.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence

        I'm not aware that there is any concrete evidence yet, but absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.

        'twas a long time before there was 'concrete evidence' that smoking is bad for people..

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence

          Don't forget Asbestos, DDT, Thailidamide, CFCs

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I was in Ludlow yesterday. Someone had leafleted cars in the car park with flyers (haven't seen anyone dozy enough to try that one for years until now) about keeping Ludlow plastic free. They were also handing them out in the streets. The woman who tried to hand me a copy didn't seem to grasp the idea that creating a paper litter problem wasn't a good way t deal with a plastic litter problem.

    I suppose getting leaflets printed is easier than working with shopkeepers and their suppliers to reduce unnecessary plastic in products and packaging. But, hey, it's Doing Something.

    1. codejunky Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      @Doctor Syntax

      How do you get downvoted for that? Have an upvote

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      "creating a paper litter problem wasn't a good way t deal with a plastic litter problem."

      Environmentalist wackos using DEAD TREES like this, to "warn" us about plastic. Is there a hypocrisy there, maybe???

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        The trees are a regular crop and not a problem. The standing crop is temporarily sequestered carbon so growing trees for paper is mildly beneficial.

        It's the lack of thought about incidental effects such as transport, processing and disposal of a totally useless batch of leaflets by a group who ought to be against it that's the objection. That and the keep-your-filthy-hands-off-my-car issue but as it happened they'd already done their round of the car park when I got there and didn't come back again.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Jehovah's Witnesses, chuggers and people handing out leaflets all get the same treatment from me, because they are all forms of environmental pollution.

      A decent size billboard, notices in shopkeepers' windows, might be better.

      Also, Ludlow has terrible signposting (I was there last week) which meant we spent much longer than should be necessary driving around looking for the car park. But greenies never seem to think about simple, practical stuff like that.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Religious nots handing out leaflets were (and probably still are) a hazard of Belfast life. One of them actually managed to thrust a leaflet at me. Round the next corner there was someone else with - I think - a different set of tracts and trying to get me to take one. Instead I thrust the one I'd just been given at him. He blinked a bit in surprise but took it.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Kiwi Silver badge
      Boffin

      The woman who tried to hand me a copy didn't seem to grasp the idea that creating a paper litter problem wasn't a good way t deal with a plastic litter problem.

      It's worse than that... What's the inks made of? I'll bet they're all perfectly wholesome materials in those little bottles! :)

  6. G R Goslin

    (Sighs)

    Once again a load ot total bo...ks, is being pedalled about as science, where inferences are being taken as data. It really does sadden me, that my exorbitant taxes are being wasted on such garbage (or in the present case, would, if I lived in Canada). Why don't they go out and count sand grains in the Sahara, or something equally useful? They could, maybe, come up with a figure of exactly how much silica dust is contained in the average dust storm, and encourage people to desist in living in such dangerous places.

    1. terrythetech

      Re: (Sighs)

      Yeah, sand has been around longer than we have - plastics, not so long.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: (Sighs)

      Stop making SO much SENSE. It's breaking the intelligence vacuum!

  7. chivo243 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    we will die

    in a sea of our own microplastic packaging.... Had to update the saying...

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I have a question

    I get that microplastics are in the air - I just need to take a look at the sire of the road to know why. I get microplastics in seafood, that's also obvious. In fact, I'm comfortable with just about everything cited, except one : alcohol. How do microplastics get in there ?

    I may be mistaken, but as far as I can see making alcohol involves metal (or wooden) vats, glass bottles and copper tubing. There is no plastic in any of that, so where does the microplastics in alcohol come from ?

    1. terrythetech
      Pint

      Re: I have a question

      maybe because the main ingredient is water - where do they get that from without the micro-plastic bits in it?

      However if I'm going to have to drink micro-plastics I may as well drink them in beer, cheers.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: I have a question

      "alcohol. How do microplastics get in there"

      I'm guessing it's part of the brewing and filtration process for beer, and distillation process for distilled liquor. It makes perfect sense to use plastic, particularly nylon if there are moving parts, along with stainless steel, in any food, brewing, or distillation process.

      But hey, I'd rather have plastic than GERMS, ya know?

      1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

        Re: I have a question

        My day job is brewer so I'll try to answer as best I can.

        The brewing vessels are all metal, the transfer hoses are rubber, the packaging lines are plastic (that's the tubes the beer flows through from tank to packaging), the packaging itself is either metal (kegs), glass with plastic-lined closures (bottles with bottle caps), or plastic-lined metal (cans).

        What about the ingredients? Water: you already know about that. Grain: arrives in plastic sacks, goes through a metal mill, then up an auger (basically an Archimedes Screw, a metal spiral spinning inside a plastic tube, yes the inside of the plastic tube does get worn from friction). Hops: arrive in plasticised foil bags. Yeast: arrives in plastic sachets.

        I don't know the detail of what happens as the grain & hops are harvested and processed but it wouldn't surprise me if conveyor belts with plastic parts are involved.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: I have a question

        But hey, I'd rather have plastic than GERMS, ya know?

        Most germs are easily processed by our body, and with a few rare exceptions make us stronger.

        Plastics - not so much.

  9. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    ... Effects are unknown ...

    IMO the article is deliberately couched in alarmist terms. The number of particles is irrelevant, it's the amount absorbed (as opposed to being excreted) and its effect on the body that we need to know. We eat and breath many times more micro-particles of other substances (pollen, fungal spores, dust, smoke etc).

    Yes, it needs investigating, but unless and until we find that it does any significant harm, stop creating unnecessary fear.

    I get the point that large plastic items are bad for animal and sea life because animals can get trapped or entangled with certain shapes of plastic and if eaten it can block the digestive system. But why assume that micro-particles of plastic does any more harm than sand or dust? There seems to be an assumption these days that anything man-made (and therefore "unnatural") must be bad, whether it be substances or electromagnetic waves from cell towers & phones.

    Perhaps many things are "bad" - but let's not just assume without good evidence. I get the impression that some people will not be happy until we go back to living in caves - and even then will probably still be complaining about people who use animal skins for clothing and all the pollution caused by cooking & heating fires.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: ... Effects are unknown ...

      Yes, it needs investigating, but unless and until we find that it does any significant harm, stop creating unnecessary fear.

      I get your point. Many food/diet "fads" have come and gone, things like eggs being "more than 2 a week will kill you quickly" to now being fine, various chemicals being "great, safe, why not" to being "yeah they're bad, that's why not".

      I am sure a long time ago someone was asked about smoking. The answer might've been "Sure, there's no evidence yet that it's harmful but why would you do it? Surely no good can come of inhaling ash!".

      I expect that plastics will be likely to do harm, long and short term. You may be right however, they may do no harm.

      But it's easier to STOP polluting our oceans with it now then to clean it up later.

      Just seems to make sense really - we can pollute, find it's OK and continue, we can pollute find out it's bad and maybe too late. Or we can not pollute, find out it's bad, and think "Thank God we stopped that before the damage went too far", or not pollute and find out it would never had done any damage and think "Well, we're already in the habit of keeping our ecology clean. Might as well keep it up.

      And all that plastic that gets into the oceans had to come from somewhere and be processed - how much pollution from the creation of it could be stopped if we were to recycle more plastics?

  10. holmegm Bronze badge

    Until there is evidence that this is 1. harmful, and 2. more harmful than the alternatives (i.e. forgoing the benefits of plastic) I can't get too alarmed.

  11. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge
    Holmes

    Boffins advice?

    So stop drinking water and prefer whisky to beer,

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Boffins advice?

      But who drinks their whisky without a wee splash of water from the burn?

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: Boffins advice?

        Me. You've not seen the burn at the back of my house...

        My dad managed to upset a whole island once by being in charge of the site building a water treatment plant in Orkney. Then they capped the well that the bar manager drew the water for the whisky from.

        I don't imagine it stayed capped for long after the construction crew left.

  12. brett_x
    Meh

    This may be the real "gluten" problem

    This past decade, we've seen a huge increase in the people that are "gluten sensitive". That is.. people who swear eating wheat based products makes their digestive systems go awry in various ways. My own (unsubstantiated) belief is that there is something much more universal causing these issues for most people.

    Is is microplastics? If we're ingesting more and more each year.. it certainly is possible.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This may be the real "gluten" problem

      A few percent of people are wheat intolerant. I'm one of them, and it started forty years ago before plastics were an issue.

      Unfortunately the medical profession until very recently was telling everybody only coeliacs were gluten sensitive.

      The result was a lot of people had vague digestive problems that were never fixed. Then we discovered it was wheat (not gluten) intolerance. But by then the industry had picked up on the confusion, so we have to buy expensive gluten free stuff instead of cheaper wheat free. (I can tolerate up to about a digestive biscuit of wheat a day, it's intolerance not an allergy.)

      I suspect eventually everybody will catch up and the "gluten free" fad will die except for actual coeliacs, but at least it means that these days I can visit decent cafés and find something to eat that isn't an oat flapjack.

    2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: This may be the real "gluten" problem

      "

      Is is microplastics? If we're ingesting more and more each year.. it certainly is possible.

      "

      Keep guessing, but change the accused reason according to whatever is causing the moral frenzy this week.

      e.g.

      Is is CFCs? If we're producing more and more each year.. it certainly is possible.

      Is is EM| radiation from WiFi, cell towers? If we're irradiated by more and more each year.. it certainly is possible.

      Is is food additives? If we're ingesting more and more each year.. it certainly is possible.

      Is is pesticides? If we're ingesting more and more each year.. it certainly is possible.

      Is is GM foods? If we're ingesting more and more each year.. it certainly is possible.

      Is is radioactivity? Due to Fukushima/Chernobyl/Nuclear testing we're exposed to more and more each year.. it certainly is possible.

      Is is exhaust emissions? If we're breathing more and more each year.. it certainly is possible.

      Plus 10000001 more variations to suit the political need / media frenzy of the day.

      We are doomed, I tell you, AND - (the important bit) - IT'S ALL OUR OWN FAULT.

    3. katgod

      Re: This may be the real "gluten" problem

      The real problem is imagining all the things that could harm you and not worry about the things that do harm you, i.e. lets all drink alcohol, smoke, do drugs, have unprotected sex and worry about gluten and micro plastics, and which sign we were born under.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: This may be the real "gluten" problem

        The real problem is imagining all the things that could harm you and not worry about the things that do harm you, i.e. lets all drink alcohol, smoke, do drugs, have unprotected sex and worry about gluten and micro plastics, and which sign we were born under.

        Oh for a massive pile of upvotes to give you! :)

  13. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Translations please?

    "Whilst tap water has an average concentration of 4.2 pieces per liter, alcohol has about 32 bits per liter.

    I appreciate this article is about USian research, but please note that over here we use the spelling 'litre' - and as this is a techie website, that should be 4 bytes per litre,

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Translations please?

      Based on gallons, surely a liter is 0.8 of alitre?

  14. Jay Lenovo Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Today's Mystery Basket Ingredient, "Micro-Plastics"

    Well, I guess this isn't going away anytime soon.

    So how can we make them more tasty?

    Maybe a "Pollo de Propylene"

  15. Werner Heisenberg

    I for one...

    ...welcome our new microplastic overlords.

  16. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Numbers, and some other numbers

    Oh, we're being poisoned. OMG...

    Volume of a 130 micrometer sphere is about 1.15 x 10^-6 cc.

    It was "less than", so let's say less than that.

    Multiply by Qty = "121,000" per year.

    Assume 99% plastic and 1% poison.

    Divide by days per year.

    Might not even reach a microgram of 'poison' per day.

    Yawn.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: Numbers, and some other numbers

      Might not even reach a microgram of 'poison' per day.

      The same could probably be said for asbestos as well, especially for those few who got asbestosis without working with it.

      Odds against you being poisoned = probably very high.

      Harm done if you or someone you love gets poisoned?

  17. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Sounds low

    Don't forget carpeting. Shoe dirt slowly grinds it away when walking on it. If you have a bagless vacuum cleaner, try tapping the fine particle chamber over water. Dirt sinks or dissolves but a hazy film of nylon dust remains floating.

  18. harmjschoonhoven
    Stop

    Avoid vegetable oil in plastic bottles

    because plasticisers from those bottles slowly dissolve in the (moving) oil. Glass bottles are chemically inert and can be recycled. BTW starting around the sixteenth century almost all glass was recycled, because it is much more energy efficient than making 100% new glass.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about, for example, quartz dust?

    Nature has been making dust since forever. At every scale. Of all sorts of materials. Of every imaginable structure.

    The evidence that microscopic particles of plastic are somehow magically vastly more dangerous is virtually non-existent.

    Now pollen! That's a multibillion dollar per year disaster. BAN TREES!

    Airhead ecomentalism is now the biggest impediment to efficiently dealing with the world's issues, with any sort of priority based rationality.

  20. the Jim bloke Silver badge
    Go

    Congratulations - You are part of the solution

    If the micro particles are the solute, we are the solvent..

    The emerging global catastrophe of plastic pollution has been getting a HUGE amount of media attention (the only thing they love more than a circus is a train-wreck.. which is why elections get so much coverage) and this article describes the way that we, yes we humans, my brothers and sisters and non-determinants, have a part to play in removing this scourge from the environment.

    By ingesting and inhaling these supposedly indestructible remnants of our affluent lifestyle, we are acting as the agents of Mother Nature in sequestering these putatively harmful substances, and concentrating them into convenient packages for disposal - this mechanism has been part of natures arsenal since... a long time ago.. and while a single passage through a human organism may not have much effect on the particles (probably less than exposure to UV, like,you know, sunlight), it can be repeated, and each time, the toxic chemicals can leach out into the host, leaving the actual micro particles less harmful.

    Yes, pollution in pretty much any form is bad, and entire species and possibly even ecosystems will die out and be replaced, and as we have contributed to the cause we have a responsibility to act towards a solution, but the media frenzy is a form of pollution in its own way, and should be discouraged also.

  21. Wobbly World

    SOLUTION to POLLUTION is DILUTION...

    Just ask someone whose task it is to dilute some kinds of toxic waste down to below the maximum allowed discharge concentration.

    This came up with a friend down at my local watering hole who works as an analytic chemist for my local water supplier. She informed me about the water they supply that comes out of the tap. It is sourced from three places.

    Part comes from reservoirs in Wales that are still contaminated with the radioactive fallout from the Windscale/Sellafield fire of 10th October 1957. The fission reactors had a straightforward air-cooled configuration, which allowed each one to exhaust its excess heat, driven by large fans, through a tall chimney, that just helped spread the ensuing radioactive contamination from the fire, despite the filters that came to be known as “Cockcroft’s Folly” due to their engineering difficulty and questionable value. Though relatively small and now mostly decayed, unfortunately though this fallout was greatly added to by the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster on 26th April 1986 that combined, to make the water exceed the maximum permitted radioactive levels for human consumption.

    A second source comes from water boreholes but again this fails to be fit for consumption, as it exceeds the maximum permitted levels of nitrates. Making it unfit for consumption as a result of nitrate contamination, coming from poor agricultural practices in the catchment area.

    The third supply comes from river water but that fails to be fit for consumption, as a result of exceeding the maximum permitted levels of hydrocarbons, coming from the runoff from roads, other spills, boats and illegal disposal.

    However because of the magic of mixing and the subsequent dilution of the contaminants the final product, municipal tap water becomes fit to be distributed being now made ‘cough’ safe to drink.!!

    And now I discover it may also contain 4.2 pieces’ per liter of micro-plastics!!! As if the fear of drowning from rising sea levels was not bad enough!!!

    We are all doomed I tell you all doomed.!!!... ຈل͜ຈ

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: SOLUTION to POLLUTION is DILUTION...

      No radon?

  22. EmilPer.

    how about the billion pieces of silica ?

    How about the billion pieces of silicates we ingest every year, or the billion pieces of NaCl we inhale every day when going to the sea side, or the billion pieces of various organic fibers etc. ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: how about the billion pieces of silica ?

      Life has grown up alongside silicates for several billion years. Sodium chloride is water soluble, and ditto for timescale. Plastics - under a century.

    2. Kiwi Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: how about the billion pieces of silica ?

      How about the billion pieces of silicates we ingest every year, or the billion pieces of NaCl we inhale every day when going to the sea side, or the billion pieces of various organic fibers etc. ?

      I'll come and start farting in your face every day - after all flatulence isn't really that bad (trust me, you'll learn otherwise PDQ!). And I'm sure I can find all sorts of other "wonderful" that people live with all the time.. How about a nice peat fire around your house, always blowing smoke where you live?

      Or perhaps we can do something about NOT being disgusting lazy pigs and dumping pollutants into our environment just because it's easy.

  23. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    To keep things simple...

    Let's talk about two levels to this problem:-

    (1) There are animals around the world that ingest lumps of plastic that accumulate in their digestive tract. After a while this build-up becomes so severe that they are unable to eat enough to sustain themselves. Their bodies have not evolved in such a way as to either expand the digestive tract, or to accelerate the digestive process due to the presence of this particular type of non-digestibe material. Other more natural forms of pollutant will usually be expelled in ways that have evolved over the years, but it is still not guaranteed, which is all part and parcel of the evolutionary process.

    (2) Much smaller particles of plastic may be expelled from the body in much the same way that more traditional pollutants are (traditional in that they have been incorporated into the evolutionary process). One of the traits of plastic materials that needs to be considered is its affinity to other particles. Shrink-wrap plastic is one example which I believe is being reduced in food packaging. This is not just the problem of leeching of the plastic into neighbouring tissue, but simply attaching itself to the walls of any channel it is passed through. Now this is not just a digestive issue, it is also a respiratory tract issue too. So this is potentially affecting the ability of the body to sustain itself not just nutritionally but in terms of breathing too.

    To those talking about how long plastic has been around and it not causing a problem let me say this word: ASBESTOS. This has been in use since 2400BCE, and its toxicity questioned in Roman times, yet it was continued to be used even into the 1960's (we had an ironing board with asbestos in it). Turner & Newall was established in 1871 and became so large that they were a constituent of the then FT30 index. Their business was asbestos. Since then they have had the pants sued off them. Can a similar thing happen to plastic manufacturers in the future?

    So am I saying that evolution will eventually cope with this problem? There probably are organisms that have evolved to either deal with plastic, or actively feed off it, but that is still not good news for the human race, so hey, let's look after the planet a bit better eh?

    One piece of research that needs to be carried out is to quantify the problem statistically in post mortems. Have the body's various tubes been constricted by plastic material? How much plastic survives in the gut of a typical human?

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Asbestos

      Sorry Kiwi, looks like my monologue took more than an hour to compose! I see in the meantime you've already mentioned Asbestos.

    2. Kiwi Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: To keep things simple...

      Firstly, I appreciate the time taken to put into a post. Almost seems offensive that it takes but a minute to read something that so much time was put into!

      I did not know how long Asbestos had actually been around for, nor how long there had been questions about its safety. In science classes at school (late 80's) we had asbestos pads over our Bunsen Burners (cannot recall what they were called, you put the tripod stand above the burner, put this metal grill with a circle of asbestos on that over the flame, and sat your beaker on top of the asbestos). I've also come across it in places in work - and I have on at least a couple of occasions been exposed to 'blue asbestos in a powdered form' that'd been 'rendered airborne' whilst on a demolition site - we were engulfed in clouds of stuff when a part of a structure turned out to be very shoddily built and it came down faster than expected. It was only after the dust had settled that a friend made the grim discovery of chunks of broken asbestos pipe cladding that would've been left behind when the place was built some 60 years previously (ie the people who were installing the piping accidentally broke some of the cladding and left it where it fell, in the roof space of the building we were taking down). None of us has contracted Asbestosis yet thankfully - and thankfully the rates are quite low so it is likely none of us ever will, but my exposure has been enough that I could contract it. I'm more familiar with asbestos and it's risks than I'd like!

      (I was also a smoker, I ride a bike, I tinker - including with things that can go 'bang' in unpleasant ways, eg mains voltages and gasoline engines), I'm overweight, I have a family history of diabetes and heart failure, I've already outlived several of my ancestors even though I am yet to reach 50 - lots of ways I could die any day!)

      So am I saying that evolution will eventually cope with this problem? There probably are organisms that have evolved to either deal with plastic, or actively feed off it, but that is still not good news for the human race, so hey, let's look after the planet a bit better eh?

      My understanding is that there has been efforts to engineer bacteria that would digest many such things. Whether that is viable (and of course, without worse side-effects) is yet to be seen. I hope it is - there is a LOT of cleanup work to do!

      One piece of research that needs to be carried out is to quantify the problem statistically in post mortems. Have the body's various tubes been constricted by plastic material? How much plastic survives in the gut of a typical human?

      I may know someone who'll have an idea, and will try to remember to ask him tomorrow. It certainly would be interesting to see, although it may be something not currently (or commonly) noted.

      But how much of a plastic coating is needed to cause damage? I would bet a single layer coating 50% of the lungs would cause significant issues! A coating in the gut or upper intestinal tract could also cause significant issues with nutrient ingestion, as could particles lodged in and blocking various receptors. How much is needed to affect the Mylar sheath around our nerves, and what effect would this damage have? (or is it myelin? Or are they like centigrade/celsius? Feel free to correct me!)

      This is why I am working more and more to have a completely natural garden, with natural or electro/mechanical pest controls (ie mesh netting and perhaps an electrified copper wire around the edges of the beds to keep bugs out), natural compost (our own kitchen and garden waste - contemplating what I might do with 'other waste' in the event of an earthquake taking out water or sewers) and the like. Years back I was diagnosed with high cholesterol. Seeing the side-effects of statins on a friend I decided to NOT use them for the first 6 months and instead change my diet. Getting rid of a few things (including oddly replacing margarine with real butter (yes I got that the right way round!) quickly brought the levels back under control - simple (and tastier!) changes to avoid ingesting more 'manufactured chemicals' brought about a faster improvement then taking the meds, and while I initially feared the changes I found an improvement in my life.

      This (and my dislike and growing anxiety around un-natural compounds in the food chain) is what has encouraged me to press on and see what I can do. Sometimes it takes work, sometimes it's easy, but always it makes life better! I'd encourage anyone here who has the resources to get themselves a garden plot and start learning how to grow food naturally yet abundantly. There really is something nicer about stuff you grew yourself! And you can feel good when your 'food miles' are measured in less than 10 yards. Do it for yourself, or for those you love; for your tastebuds, or for the whole planet. But do it!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: To keep things simple...

        "or is it myelin?"

        Yes. Mylar's a plastic!

        Nice post - that must have taken a while as well.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: To keep things simple...

          "or is it myelin?"

          Yes. Mylar's a plastic!

          Nice post - that must have taken a while as well.

          So... Could almost be right on both counts anyway WRT to the amount of plastics in our environment? :)

          Thanks - both for the correction and the complement :)

    3. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: To keep things simple...

      One piece of research that needs to be carried out is to quantify the problem statistically in post mortems. Have the body's various tubes been constricted by plastic material? How much plastic survives in the gut of a typical human?

      As promised, I spoke to my neighbour who has done some post-mortem work as part of his normal studies.

      Plastics aren't looked for as they are generally unlikely to build up enough to cause death. However, they can break down in stomach acid (especially for people who have an excessive meat content in their diet) and the byproducts can lead to health issues over time (longer periods though).

      With the PM work done in NZ, there's little to no reason to look for plastics, and what is found in the gut is negligible if even detected (usually not detected but again, not looked for).

      So that's something of an answer, although not exactly definitive.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: So that's something of an answer,

        Thanks! Upvoted for going to the trouble to ask.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: So that's something of an answer,

          Thanks! Upvoted for going to the trouble to ask.

          NP - No trouble either. Guy's a pleasure to talk to, intelligent, and lives across the road :) Thanks for giving me an excuse to go and have a chat with him!

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