Study: Americans are ingesting huge amounts 'microplastics'

A new study suggests that if you drink bottled water, you could be ingesting more what are called 'microplastic particles' than you may realize.

The study reports that Americans eat, drink and breathe between 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic particles each year. They're affecting the environment too.

"It's a miracle product," said Christine Figgener with the Texas A&M College of Geosciences. "Thanks to plastic we have reached incredible advances in technology, medicine, and other things--but we are overusing it."

Figgener is also a Time Magazine Next Generation Leader acknowledged for her research and advocacy on ocean plastics.

"It ends up in the environment and unfortunately, plastic doesn't just disappear," Figgener said on First News at Four. "It breaks down into smaller and smaller and smaller pieces."

Those smaller pieces, called microplastics, are what end up in our bodies through the things we ingest and the air we breathe.

Figgener says researchers are looking into what those microplastics are doing to our health when they end up in our gut.

"It is a little bit scary because, just in recent years, we know more and more about how important the guts is for our overall health," said Figgener. "It's connected to autoimmune issues, it's connected to mental health issues and it's connected to allergies."

There are ways to cut back on our handling and use of plastics, says Figgener, but the key word in that process is "inconvenient."

"A lot of the items that we use are single-use plastics: we only use it once and then discard it," Figgener said. "Also, a lot of the cosmetics that we use, toothpaste, for example, have microbeads in them, which are also considered microplastics--so you can rethink your cosmetics as well."

For the full conversation with Figgener, see the video player above.