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Talking Points with Taylor: We may be consuming plastic every day

Every single-use plastic water bottle you have ever drank is still on Earth or has transformed into toxic chemicals that still linger in the atmosphere. The same goes for any single-use plastic ever used. That is because plastics cannot naturally break down, and scientists have not found a good solution to dispose of them; likely because the only true solution is to stop mass-producing single-use plastic.

But those plastics aren’t just sitting in landfills and polluting oceans, they are also in our blood, lung tissue and placentas. A 2023 study done by Columbia and Rutgers universities found roughly 240,000 nanoplastics in a liter of popular brands of bottled water, which raises serious concerns about how much plastic humans are truly consuming.

Microplastics, which are 5 millimeters or less in size, are smaller than a sesame seed. They break down and form nanoplastics, which are so small they are undetectable to the human eye. Because nanoplastics are so tiny, it is easier for them to enter the human body. 

But their small size makes researching them even harder. The researchers at Columbia and Rutgers just discovered how many nanoplastics are in water bottles, they did not explore potential health impacts on humans. That is because of a lack of standardized methods to test health impacts.

But, surely, plastic inside the human body can’t be a good thing. Plastics have harmed ecosystems, the atmosphere and animals’ well-being. We do not need research to tell us that plastic inside our bodies is harmful, we need research to tell us how it is harmful or at what point it becomes harmful.

There are various chemicals used during the production of plastic, such as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, Bisphenol A, or BPA, and phthalates, which are all known endocrine disruptors, meaning they can affect development and reproduction in humans. Pigments and dyes, among other chemicals, are also known carcinogens. 

But, again, because nanoplastics are so hard to study, scientists don’t know how many could be inside the human body; thus, they don’t know the concentration of those dangerous chemicals either.

If water bottles contain hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics, how many nanoplastics are we consuming from other plastic-wrapped food and beverage products? Nearly every product at the grocery store comes wrapped in plastic, including the inner plastic lining of aluminum cans. Nanoplastics could be leaching into all of our food and beverages.

And that only accounts for plastic particles from the plastic wrappings and containers, not the actual products inside. There is an abundance of plastic water bottles floating in oceans, rivers and lakes, leaving nanoplastics for fish and other sea creatures to consume. So not only does our food have plastic in it, but our food’s food does, too. 

Research also shows airborne microplastics are “especially prevalent indoors” and that humans are “thus continuously exposed to atmospheric MPs (microplastics.)” Other research suggests that microplastics may accumulate in the human body and that chronic exposure is a concern.

Plastic is in the air we breathe, water we drink and the food we eat. That means we are constantly taking in more and more. Worst of all, there is no way for us to escape it. Yet another reason why we must evade our dependence on single-use plastic.

The research about plastic has one major conclusion: plastic is inside of us and will continue to be for a long time. However, research thus far has failed to inform what it means for human health. Plastic has long been an environmental crisis, but new studies about the amount of plastic in human bodies raise questions about whether it is or will be a health crisis.

Taylor Henninger is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Taylor by emailing her at

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