Singapore

We could be swallowing 5g of plastic every week

New research shows microplastics can be found in air, food and water

Fancy a pinch of plastic with that shellfish dish?

New research combining the results of more than 50 studies globally has found that on average, people could be ingesting about 5g of plastic every week - equivalent to a credit card - in the air they breathe, the food they eat and especially the water they drink.

This amounts to about 100,000 tiny pieces of plastic - or 250g - every year, said the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the University of Newcastle yesterday.

"These findings must serve as a wake-up call to governments. If we don't want plastic in our bodies, we need to stop the millions of tonnes of plastic that continue leaking into nature every year," said WWF International director-general Marco Lambertini.

He said urgent action at the government, business and consumer levels was needed to tackle the plastic crisis, as well as a worldwide treaty to address plastic pollution.

The latest research is the first to combine insights from studies across the world on people's ingestion of plastic, said the WWF.

Of the 52 studies included in the study's calculations, 33 looked at plastic consumption through foods and beverages.

Some common foods and beverages containing microplastics are drinking water, beer, shellfish and salt.

But the WWF said the findings may be an underestimate, as the microplastic contamination of staple foods such as milk, rice, wheat, corn, bread, pasta and oils has not yet been studied.

In Singapore, monitoring by national water agency PUB shows the country's drinking water is free from microplastics, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli told Parliament last year.

At Singapore's Newater and desalination plants, microplastics are removed using reverse osmosis membranes.

PUB also ensures all used water is collected and treated at water reclamation plants to internationally recognised discharge standards, the minister said.

During the treatment process, microplastics in used water are substantially removed as sludge and incinerated. Only a minuscule amount of microplastics is discharged into the sea, he added.

MEDICAL & HEALTH