Microplastics found in stools of 8 people from Japan, Europe

Ismael LynchOct 26, 2018

Tiny pieces of plastic measuring less than five millimeters in length-or roughly the size of a sesame seed-have become a almost ubiquitous presence in our world.

Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria started with a small pilot study with only eight participants from Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Austria.

This is particularly worrying as, while we are still coming to terms with what damage they cause to the environment, it is believed microplastics can impact human health through the gastrointestinal tract.

Microplastics from food packaging have found their way into the human digestive system. Researchers from the university and the Environment Agency Austria monitored participants from the UK, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and Austria.

Each person kept a food diary for a week before having their stools samples.

There isn't any evidence so far of whether ingesting microplastics is unsafe to humans, let alone the specific effects, but the researchers believe that gastrointestinal plastic might have a clinical impact. In addition, many US cities are moving to ban plastic straws and single-use items such as cotton swabs and drink stirrers, which can break down into microplastics.

Negative as the effects of microplastics may be in the intestine, it's obviously preferable to them building up in our stomachs, as is common in turtles and whales. But research into its effects on human health are limited, Ruairi Robertson, a postdoctoral researcher in studies of the gut at the University of British Columbia, said by phone. The results are presented today at the International UEG Gastroenterology Congress in Vienna and form the basis for further investigations on a larger scale.

All participants consumed plastic-packed food or beverages from polyethylene-terephthalate (PET) bottles; the majority ate fish or seafood, and none followed an exclusively vegetarian diet.

Microplastics, as they are called, were found in stool samples from a handful of volunteers located across Europe and Asia, researchers report. New research provides evidence of something scientists have suspected since microplastics were first detected in seafood, salt and bottled water: People are eating plastic particles, and excreting at least some of them.

Up to nine different kinds of plastics were detected, ranging in size from.002 to.02 inches. Beyond that it is highly likely that during various steps of food processing or as a result of packaging food is being contaminated with plastics. You can further help us by making a donation.

For Stephanie Wright, a researcher at King's College London, the real question is whether plastics are accumulating in the human body.

In a small, first-of-its-kind study, researchers have found microplastics in stool samples from people around the world. It is estimated that, due to pollution, two to five per cent of all plastics produced end up in the seas where they are consumed by sea animals and enter the food chain.

Schwabl said it seemed that the rise in plastic pollution was an nearly inevitable bi-product of the way society operates, adding: "It is likely that the amount of plastic contamination may rise further if mankind does not change the current situation". They are cosmopolitan in nature and have been even discovered in deep-sea sediments over three miles underneath the ocean surface, in Arctic sea ice, and on Swiss mountains.

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