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Humans eat about a credit card's worth of plastic every week, study says

A new study published by the WWF said the average person could be ingesting about 5 grams of plastic every week.
Credit: 10News

A new study published by the WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) found that plastic is polluting the food we eat.

According to the study on microplastics by the University of Newcastle in Australia, an average person could be eating about 5 grams of plastic every week. That's equivalent to one credit card.

These microplastics are plastic particles under 5 millimeters in size. Primary microplastics are things like shower gel microbeads and tire abrasion and secondary microplastics come from the degradation of larger plastics like plastic bags.

The study said the largest source of plastic ingestion is drinking water like groundwater, surface water, tap water and bottled water. In the U.S., the study said 94.4 percent of tap water samples collected contained plastic fibers. In Europe, the percentage of plastic fibers found was 72.2.

RELATED: How much plastic ends up in our oceans and waterways?

After drinking water, the other sources of plastic ingestion include shellfish, beer and salt. Shellfish can account for as much as 0.5 grams of microplastics a week, according to the study. Researchers said this is because shellfish are often eaten whole after living in plastic-polluted water.

"Not only are plastics polluting our oceans and waterways and killing marine life -- it's in all of us and we can't escape consuming plastics," WWF's Marco Lambertini said to USA Today.

Though the long-term effects of ingesting plastics on human health are not fully understood, the study said plastic consumption can lead to respiratory problems. Researchers also said some types of plastic can carry chemicals and additives that could affect sexual function, fertility and an "increased occurrence of mutations and cancers."

The World Health Organization is currently doing a review of the health impact of ingesting microplastics, the study said.

The study adds the UN Environment Programme estimates the global economic impact of plastic pollution on oceans is around $8 billion per year. The WWF said the current approach to addressing plastic pollution is "failing" and in the study called on governments to "ensure all actors in the plastic systems are held accountable for the true cost of plastic pollution to nature and people."

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