LONDON: We could be swallowing over 100 tiny plastic particles with every meal, according to a study which found that polymers from soft furnishings and synthetic fabrics get into household dust and settle on our plates.
Researchers from Heriot-Watt University in the UK made the discovery after putting Petri dishes containing sticky dust traps on the table next to dinner plates in three homes at meal times.
Up to 14 pieces of plastic were found in the Petri dishes at the end of a 20-minute meal – the equivalent of 114 plastic fibres falling on the average dinner plate given their much larger size.
The scientists, from Heriot-Watt University concluded that the average person swallows up to 68,415 potentially dangerous plastic fibres a year simply through sitting down to eat.
The researchers set out to compare plastic fibres found in mussels with the amount in the average household meal.
They found fewer than two microplastics in each mussel, which could be linked to the marine environment, and concluded that the average person can expect to consume 100 plastic particles a year through eating the shellfish.
However, they will ingest anything from 13,731 to 68,415 fibres in a year during meals because of household dust.
“These results may be surprising to some people who may expect the plastic fibres in seafood to be higher than those in household dust,” said Ted Henry, professor at Heriot-Watt University.
“We do not know where these fibres come from, but it is likely to be inside the home and the wider environment,” said Henry.
The plastic fibres found in the home-cooked meals did not come from the food or the cooking environment, but household dust, researchers said.