Not long ago, plastic was invented by humans out of sheer goodwill. And until then, it was an unknown non-biodegradable substance made up by fusing several biodegradable ones. So elegant, that in the most recent times we’ve seen it leave no part of our lives untouched. Not even food!
From water bottles to our morning coffee, and then, our usual supper – it is now everywhere! What differentiates all of it is how the plastic gets into us – directly or indirectly.
Shockingly enough, however, non-vegetarian food is not the only known conduit for the intake of plastics, as it was believed to be earlier. We’ve also let microplastics – tiny pieces ranging from 5 millimeters down to 100 nanometers in diameter – so much in our general lives, that we’ve allowed even our tea-bags to pick up the chemicals from them.
What are we really doing with ourselves?
Where on one side we began eating a lesser number of ‘animals’ (populations of which would supposedly die of choking after mere ingestion of plastic litter. Not only on land but also in water, this has been known to cause a number of casualties time and again.) We have also, on a depreciative note, let microplastics seep into amenities even as basic as salt.
As some studies suggest,
If we eat the maximum daily intake of 5 grams of salt, this would mean we would typically consume three microplastics a day (although many people eat much more than the recommended amount).
Also, do we eat only salt every day? From salt, then, to beer too. Scientists have also found them in honey and beer. We might be swallowing tens of microplastics with each bottle of the latter.
However, as mentioned earlier, we might not have to worry about all else as much as we might need to do about the water many of us drink. Perhaps the ‘biggest’ known source of microplastics that we consume is bottled water. When researchers examined a variety of types of glass and plastic water bottles, they found microplastics in most of them. Single-use water bottles contained between two and 44 of them per liter, while returnable bottles (designed for collection under a deposit scheme) contained between 28 and 241 of the same per liter. The microplastics came from the packaging, which means we could be exposing ourselves to more of them every time we fill up a bottle in order to reduce waste.
Moreover, all of these are the sources of microplastics that do not come from our home, whereas there is also evidence that those in food come from indoor dust. A recent study estimated that we could get an annual dose of almost 70,000 of those from the dust that settles on to our dinner – and that is only one of our daily meals. There’s yet breakfast at home, with varying sites for lunch.
The Final Piece of Plastic
So, as it is, we are eating some numbers of microplastics from marine products, apparently. But only drinking a liter of bottled water every day could lead us to consume more for harm than we would from being an avid shellfish eater. And the other question scientists have yet to answer when it comes to them in our food is how much harm they actually do.
On a particular note though, will we now be looking into what we further eat than be looking at? I wonder! Because had ‘looking into’ been the case, we wouldn’t have ended up where we now are.
Jayant Kashyap is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet, with poems appearing in numerous magazine all over the world, and somewhat of a foodie (so, a food blogger). His debut poetry chapbook, Survival, comes earlier in 2019 from NY-based Clare Songbirds Publishing House. He is also the co-founder and editor of literary magazine Bold + Italic.