About half the plastic ever made was manufactured in the past 20 years. (1) Plastic use keeps rising and now it’s infiltrating every part of our world, including deep into the ocean and even the north pole. Small particles of plastic are contaminating our soil, our ocean, the air we breathe, and even our bodies. Because of this we are all eating plastic, and some of us are eating extra portions. There is one group that is doubling their plastic ingestion.
The numbers might surprise you! We ingest thousands of microplastic particles every week. One study recently found that globally the average person is ingesting 5 grams of plastic every week. (2) Could you imagine eating a credit card? Well, that’s how much plastic 5 grams is.
But wait… I don’t want to ingest plastic. You don’t really have much of a choice. It’s contaminated our food supply and has been found in fecal samples of people across the world. (3) Even if you were very careful about what you ate, you can’t stop breathing. Those small plastic particles are in the air we breathe and can get in your body that way.
If You Do This, You Are Doubling Your Microplastic Ingestion
One study estimated the number of microplastic particles that Americans ingested to be between 74,000 and 121,000. That study also found that one group of Americans is greatly increasing their ingestion of microplastics compared to others. If you drink exclusively from plastic bottles you could be ingesting 90,000 more particles. (4) That’s about double the microplastic ingestion of those who don’t.
The plastic from the water bottle leaches into the water. One study tested bottles of water and found that 93% were contaminated with microplastics. (5) Think of that the next time you are chugging a bottle of water. Not so refreshing, is it?
Addiction to convenience is bad for our environment and it’s bad for us. Every minute there are an average of 1 million plastic bottles purchased globally. That is a lot of bottles, especially if you consider that only 20% of them will be recycled globally. Sadly, in the United States only 9% of them will be recycled. (1) Those bottles go somewhere and will only increase the number of plastics in our environment contaminating our soil, water, and air.
What Are the Impacts of Ingesting Plastic?
The studies have just begun to understand how much plastic we are ingesting and what the repercussions will be. We don’t know exactly how they will affect us but amounts of plastic are only increasing.
We do know that plastic isn’t good for us, and we even shared the story of one of our patients who drank a case of water that had been sitting in his car for months. He experienced symptoms like irritability, dizzy spells, brain fog, rapid heartbeat, and anxiety. The doctor he worked with connected it to the plastic bottles he was drinking and helped him to detox his body.
What that patient didn’t know was that most plastics, including plastic bottles, are made with products that cause estrogenic activity. That means the products mimic the estrogen hormones in your body and throw everything off. Your hormones are the messengers that tell the different systems in your body what to do. You do not want to add plastic chemicals that mimic these activities. These chemicals have been connected to infertility, obesity, developmental issues, breast cancer, testicular cancer, and we are just getting started in understanding the impacts.
Many people think they are safe to use plastic if it says BPA free. Everyone knows BPA is bad for you! Unfortunately, that’s not the case. BPA has just been removed to be replaced by chemically similar products. Some of these products just aren’t as well known for their estrogenic effects, or the studies haven’t shown them yet.
How Do I Reduce My Microplastic Ingestion?
With what we know about the damage that plastics can cause it is important to reduce your microplastic ingestion. While it seems plastic is overtaking our world there are ways that you can minimize your exposure.
- Don’t drink bottled water because as we know can double your ingestion of microplastics!
- Use a stainless steel or glass water bottle. You will avoid that plasticky taste to your drink.
- Get a good filter that removes small particles, like a Berkey Filter or whole house system. A good water filter can remove many chemicals that your family shouldn’t be exposed to.
- Cook whole foods at home and avoid the toxic exposure of eating out. People who ate out more often were found to have 35% higher levels of phthalates. Pthalates are a chemical used to soften plastic used in many food containers.
- Don’t microwave your food in plastic containers. Actually, just don’t microwave your food. It’s so bad for you.
- Use glass food containers
- Table salt is known for its microplastic contamination. Don’t skip the salt though because your body needs salt. try Himalayan pink salt instead.
Nobody Wants to Eat Plastic
Plastic is infiltrating every part of our planet but it’s not too late to make a change. We need to stop our dependence on plastics especially single use plastics. Start by using a reusable water bottle and bringing a canvas bag to the store. Each improvement matters and is a step in the right direction. If our world is contaminated, then so are we.
Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn