People ingesting up to 5g of plastic each week

Stack of multicolored credit cards close-up view with selective focus

Shellfish was another big source.

The researchers note that while the long-term effects of ingesting microplastics are not yet fully understood, scientists suspect the health hazard may be greater than now believed.

A new WWF study called "Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People" reports that people consume 2,000 tiny pieces of plastic each week, on average, which is the equivalent of eating a teaspoon of plastic - or a credit card - every week.

The study by Australia's University of Newcastle said the largest source of plastic ingestion was from tap and especially bottled water.

We already know there is plastic pollution present in our water supply and some foods, with a study earlier this month finding we consume between 39,000 and 52,000 particles each a year.

It focused on microplastics, which are plastic particles no bigger than 5mm.

Material that ends up in the ocean eventually breaks down into micro-plastics, which ends up in the food chain as sea creatures ingest them.

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Researchers found that water in the United States and Lebanon had on average 4.8 and 4.5 fibres per 500 millilitres respectively, compared to 1.9 fibres per 500 millilitres in both Europe and Indonesia. "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", said Marco Lambertini, WWF International Director General.

The researchers note that their study "builds on a limited set of evidence, and comes with limitations" - including a "lack of data available on crucial metrics, such as weight and size distribution of microplastics in natural environments". The findings are an important step towards understanding the impact of plastic pollution on humans.

"There is very large uncertainty about the harms that plastics do", he said. "What will happen if you ingest 5g of plastic a week?"

Calling for an urgent global focus to tackle the crisis, Lambertini said, "We're all clear that this is a worldwide problem that can only be solved by addressing the root cause of plastic pollution".

"We can not just remove it", said Kavita Prakash-Mani, global conservation director at WWF International.

Prakash-Mani said a global treaty on plastics and reduction targets from companies and governments was needed to tackle the issue.

The World Wide Fund for Nature says since 2000 the world has produced as much plastic as all the preceding years combined.

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