You could be swallowing a credit card's weight in plastic every week
Globally, we are ingesting an average of 5 grams of plastic every week, the equivalent of a credit card, a new study suggests.
This plastic contamination comes from "microplastics" -- particles smaller than five millimeters -- which are making their way into our food, drinking water and even the air.
Around the world, people ingest an average of around 2,000 microplastic particles a week, according to the study by the University of Newcastle, in Australia.
These tiny particles can originate from a variety of sources, including artificial clothes fibers, microbeads found in some toothpastes, or bigger pieces of plastic which gradually break into smaller pieces when they're thrown away and exposed to the elements.
They make their way into our rivers and oceans, and can be eaten by fish and other marine animals, ending up as part of the food chain.
Microplastics have been found in many everyday foods and drinks, such as water, beer, shellfish and salt, co-lead researcher Kala Senathirajah told CNN.
"It is very clear that the issue of microplastics is a global one. Even if countries clean up their backyard, it doesn't mean they will be safe as those [microplastic] particles could be entering from other sources," she said.
The largest source of plastic ingestion is drinking water, according to the research, which reviews 52 existing studies to estimate plastic ingestion around the world.
The research was commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for its report "No Plastic in Nature: Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People."
It found that the average person consumes as many as 1,769 particles of plastic every week just by drinking water -- bottled or from the tap. But there could be large regional variations. It quotes a 2018 study that found twice as much plastic in water in the United States and India than in European or Indonesian tap water.
A separate study this month found that Americans eat, drink and breathe between 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic particles each year, and those who exclusively drink bottled water rather than tap water can add up to 90,000 plastic particles to their yearly total.