Most people would never even think about consuming plastic, and yet recent data suggests that unconsciously each person ingests about five grams of plastic particles per week. To put that into perspective, five grams of plastic is exactly what your credit card would weigh.
The review which was published in the journal Exposure & Health showed home many nano plastics and microplastic particles make it into our digestive system because of the way that the human food chain is currently operating.
But what are Nanoplastics and Microplastics?
Nano plastics refers to any plastic particle that is less than 0.001 millimeters in size. Microplastics by comparison could be as small as 0.001 millimeters or in other cases as big as 5 millimeters. This means that there are occasions when microplastics may even be visible to the naked eye.
So how is it that these plastics make their way into our food and then into our digestive systems?
According to the research published most of these plastics make their way into the human food chain from packaging waste. One of the most common sources of micro and nano plastics has been shown to be seafood and drinking water. According to one of the studies that the review examined, those who drank about 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day from plastic bottles would consume about 90,000 plastic particles each year. Those who by comparison only drink tap water would reduce the number of plastic particles ingested to around 40,000.
Still, for something that seems to be so common, very few people know what the effect of all of these plastic particles will be on the human body. Research on the number of micro and nano plastic particles in the gastrointestinal tract has now shown that there is a direct link between the ingestion of plastic particles and the changing of the gut microbiome composition. These changes are by no means positive as they are believed to be linked to the rise of many different metabolic diseases including diabetes, obesity, and even chronic liver disease.
The changes to the gut microbiome are not the only ones to be noted, according to scientists researching this matter, the ingestion of micro-and nano plastics has now led to many gut issues caused by the activation of molecular mechanisms. Plastic particles have been shown to directly activate certain mechanisms that are linked with both inflammation and immune response. More importantly, some of the chemical pathways triggered by the consumption of plastics have also been shown to be directly involved in the cancer formation process.
What happens when we swallow plastic?
Every single person ingesting plastic is at risk of developing certain digestive or more serious problems, but especially those with chronic diseases may directly suffer because of the consumption of plastics.
“A healthy gut is more likely to ward off the health risk. But local changes in the gastrointestinal tract, such as those present in chronic disease or even negative stress, could make them susceptible to the harmful effects of MNPs,” stated Lukas Kenner, study co-author from the Medical University of Vienna.
Undoubtedly, some actions will need to be taken in the future to reduce the amount of micro and nano plastics that make it to the human food chain or gut problems and certain diseases will be far more likely to become even more prevalent in modern-day society.
How to avoid swallowing plastic
Here are a few simple ways to solve this problem:
- Stop using plastic water bottles
- Drink only filtered water
- Avoid canned food (they are lined with plastic too)
- Avoid tea bags with glue on them (which is also plastic)
- Avoid packages food and meals
- Avoid takeout containers
- Wear natural fibers (your body can absorb plastic materials through the skin)