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Human Consumption of Microplastics

  • Kieran D. Cox*
    Kieran D. Cox
    Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia V8P 5C2 Canada
    Hakai Institute, Calvert Island, British Columbia V0P 1H0 Canada
    *E-mail: [email protected]. Phone: +1 778 977-0142.
  • Garth A. Covernton
    Garth A. Covernton
    Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia V8P 5C2 Canada
  • Hailey L. Davies
    Hailey L. Davies
    Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia V8P 5C2 Canada
  • John F. Dower
    John F. Dower
    Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia V8P 5C2 Canada
  • Francis Juanes
    Francis Juanes
    Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia V8P 5C2 Canada
  • , and 
  • Sarah E. Dudas
    Sarah E. Dudas
    Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia V8P 5C2 Canada
    Hakai Institute, Calvert Island, British Columbia V0P 1H0 Canada
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo, British Columbia V9T 6N7 Canada
Cite this: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2019, 53, 12, 7068–7074
Publication Date (Web):June 5, 2019
Copyright © 2019 American Chemical Society
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Abstract Image

Microplastics are ubiquitous across ecosystems, yet the exposure risk to humans is unresolved. Focusing on the American diet, we evaluated the number of microplastic particles in commonly consumed foods in relation to their recommended daily intake. The potential for microplastic inhalation and how the source of drinking water may affect microplastic consumption were also explored. Our analysis used 402 data points from 26 studies, which represents over 3600 processed samples. Evaluating approximately 15% of Americans’ caloric intake, we estimate that annual microplastics consumption ranges from 39000 to 52000 particles depending on age and sex. These estimates increase to 74000 and 121000 when inhalation is considered. Additionally, individuals who meet their recommended water intake through only bottled sources may be ingesting an additional 90000 microplastics annually, compared to 4000 microplastics for those who consume only tap water. These estimates are subject to large amounts of variation; however, given methodological and data limitations, these values are likely underestimates.

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The Supporting Information is available free of charge on the ACS Publications website at DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b01517.

  • Polymer identification methods, details of studies included in the analysis, source information on the dietary recommended intake of each food group used to determine human microplastic consumption (PDF)

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