NU.nl daily checks messages for reliability. Claim: "People receive a microplastics credit card every week."
According to various reports, people would receive the weight of a credit card every week from microplastics. This claim can be found on WaterForum , Foodlog and Agro & Chemie . The source is a press release from the World Wide Fund for Nature, which commissioned a study into the intake of microplastics by humans. But do we really get so much tiny plastic?
What are microplastics?
Susanne Waaijers, project leader and scientific advisor for circular economy and sustainability at RIVM, explains that microplastics are small synthetic particles of less than 5 millimeters, whereby the very small particles (smaller than 100 nanometers) are also called nanoplastics.
Microplastic is created during the weathering and breaking down of plastic. Research shows that microplastic is found in drinking water and the air, among other things.
Eat a credit card every month, where does it come from?
The press release from the WWF, on which the message from Foodlog, among others, is based, was published on 12 June. According to the headline of this message, people would be able to "get" a microplastic credit card a week. The research on which the WWF based the press release is an analysis by consultancy firm Dalberg and The University of Newcastle in Australia, commissioned by the WWF.
According to the description of the study, it is an analysis of the already existing studies on microplastics. The analysis has not been published in a scientific journal. The report that has been published does not exactly describe how the researchers came to the conclusion that people can receive the weight of a microplastics credit card on a weekly basis.
The description of the analysis does explicitly state that the available research is limited. And that no precise estimate could be made of how many microplastic people get in. Although the final estimate would be "realistic" according to experts.
We do not know how many microplastic people get
Waaijers and Bart Koelmans, professor of water and sediment quality at Wageningen University and Research, on the other hand, say that at the moment we simply do not know how many microplastics people ingest. Waaijers indicates that there are no reliable estimates of the amount of microplastics that Dutch people or EU citizens receive.
Koelmans says that we know that microplastics are in everything, but that we do not know how many microplastics people get. "An important reason for this is that we cannot yet determine how much microplastic is in food or drinking water. In addition, the intake of microplastics is probably highly dependent on eating habits and region."
Why the amount of microplastic is unknown
Koelmans explains why the methods used to measure the amount of microplastic are often unreliable. He says that they do not regularly work clean enough or that this is not checked. "There are also microplastics in the air, you have to take this into account. In addition, not every measurement method finds all particles of microplastic and natural particles are sometimes incorrectly classified as microplastic. The design of the study should also take this into account."
"With our research group we looked at fifty studies into microplastics in drinking water this year. Only four of them proved to meet all the requirements for reliable research. Earlier, when we investigated microplastics in marine animals, we found that none of the studies we examined met all quality requirements "
Are microplastics bad for us?
Waaijers says that the health risks of microplastic are not yet known. "Research into microplastics, in which RIVM is also involved, is now focusing, for example, on viruses and bacteria that may spread more easily through microplastics. We are also looking at whether microplastics in the air increase the risk of inflammation in the lungs."
Koelmans emphasizes that there are currently no concrete indications of a risk of microplastics for humans. "But because relatively much is still unknown and because of the social unrest on this subject, it is good that even more research is being done into this."
Microplastics in high concentrations risk aquatic life
What we do know is that microplastic brings risks to aquatic life. Koelmans says that research shows that large quantities of microplastics can have a negative effect on some aquatic organisms. "At the moment there are only a few places in the world where the concentration of microplastic is so high that it causes problems for aquatic life. But the number of places where this is the case is expected to increase."
Experts indicate that it is not yet possible to estimate the amount of microplastics that people ingest. The measurement methods are often not reliable enough at the moment. In addition, the amount of microplastic that people ingest will be strongly dependent on culture and region.
We judge the statement "people receive a weekly credit card for microplastics" as unproven .
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