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Yikes! We're eating, drinking and breathing a lot of plastic

We consume the equivalent of a 'credit card' every week, study shows

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Call it shocking or even gross, but many of us are eating, drinking and breathing tiny little pieces of plastic on a regular basis. These little tiny fragments break off water bottles, plastic bags or wrappings.

We call these little fragments microplastics. They’re 5 millimeters at their largest but can be much smaller -- even microscopic. They end up in the food that we eat, the water that we drink and even the air that we breathe.

According to early results from a forthcoming study from the University of New Castle in Australia, researchers estimate the average person consumes up to 5 grams of plastic a week. The equivalent of a credit card! 

CONSUMER REPORTS: How to eat less plastic

The Plastics Industry Association said in a statement to Consumer Reports that research has not shown "significant human health impacts" from microplastics, but this is something that requires further study.  

But the experts who Consumer Reports has spoken with say that it’s very likely there are going to be at least some health effects. It’s possible, for example, that ingesting microplastics might increase our exposure to some other chemicals that we know are in some plastics. Chemicals that we know have harmful health effects.

Some of these chemicals have been linked to a variety of potential health problems, including reduced fertility, obesity, organ damage, developmental delays in children and even cancer. So how can you eat less plastic? 

First, Consumer Reports recommends you start by drinking tap water. Microplastic levels in bottled water can be twice as high as tap. Also, don’t heat food in plastic in the microwave.  And eat more fresh food. It may expose you to fewer concerning chemicals than wrapped, packaged and processed food. 

Another place you may be ingesting plastic is through household dust. It's a big source of both microplastics and chemicals like phthalates, so cleaning surfaces and vacuuming regularly can reduce the amount of plastic you consume.

About the Authors:

Lauren Verno anchors the 9 a.m. hour of The Morning Show and is the consumer investigative reporter weekday afternoons.