plastic in food
Credit: © Natalie Merkulova / EyeEm / Getty Images

At the risk of sounding alarmist, guys, the Earth is in bad shape. I would suggest we pack up, call it a day and head home, except for – yeah – there’s nowhere to go. And I’m not even talking about the devastating photos NASA released this week showing visual evidence of the impact of climate change. Some people’s unwillingness to admit that climate change is manmade is disturbing. But let’s put that aside for a second because here is one thing you can’t deny is manmade (almost completely)… plastics. And in another piece of disconcerting environmental news, a new study says that tiny plastic particles have found their way into our seafood, and we’re ingesting as many as 11,000 of these “microplastics” every year.

Of course, most people would prefer to eat no plastic, let alone 11,000 bits a year. The good news according to the study, conducted by University of Ghent in Belgium, is that researchers found that 99 percent of these often microscopic plastic particles pass through the body. But obviously the bad news is that the other 1 percent do not, and frighteningly, even the scientists behind the study aren’t quite sure what happens from there. “Where do they go? Are they encapsulated by tissue and forgotten about by the body, or are they causing inflammation or doing other things?” Dr. Colin Janssen, the lead researcher, asked according Sky News. “Are chemicals leaching out of these plastics and then causing toxicity? We don't know and actually we do need to know.” It’s like if your utility company told you gas was leaking into your house and then asked, “Is it deadly? We’d like to know.” Yeah, no kidding?

Sadly, the problem is only getting worse. It’s estimated that the world’s oceans are now home to more than five trillion pieces of microplastics, and though some sources of this mess, like microbeads in toiletries, have been targeted by environmental groups, most of what’s out there is simply broken down larger plastics – and reportedly a full garbage truck worth of plastic waste is being added to our oceans every minute. By 2100, scientists predict the amount of microplastics we consume could reach 780,000 per year, with 4,000 of those being absorbed into our bodies. I’m not sure what the recommended daily allowance of plastic is, but I’m guessing its below that.

Needless to say, these kinds of large scale environmental issues can be extremely difficult to tackle, especially when dealing with a ubiquitous threat like plastic. However, the UK’s Sky has launched a new Sky Ocean Rescue campaign to help battle the problem. The EPA could take some cues from the Brits. Or who knows, maybe they are and they just won’t tell us.

And if you want a scary look at the way this is all happening, the 2016 documentary A Plastic Ocean might make you reconsider your next sushi meal.