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New Study Suggests Humans are Consuming Lots of Microplastics

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Kieran Cox / University of Victoria
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Researchers pull a seine through waters in Sidney, British Columbia.

We’ve been hearing more and more stories lately about the various places plastics are showing up in our environment. Stories of dead dolphins washing ashore on local beaches with pounds of plastics in their stomachs; scientists breaking deep sea diving records, only to find a plastic bag and food wrappers; researchers have even found microplastics in a remote area of the Pyrenees mountains.

An NPR story over the weekend says researchers at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have found microplastics throughout the water column. And now, new research out of the University of Victoria in British Columbia suggests that annual microplastics consumption here in the U.S. ranges from 39,000 to 52,000 particles depending on age and sex. These estimates increase to 74,000 and 121,000 when inhalation is considered. And, people who mostly drink bottled water may be ingesting an additional 90,000 microplastic particles annually, compared to 4,000 for those who consume only tap water. We discuss these startling numbers with the study’s lead author, Kieran Cox, a marine biology Ph.D. Candidate​ and Hakai Scholar at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.