Microplastics found in human faeces

Microplastics Are Everywhere — and That Likely Includes Your Poop

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have found microplastics in stool samples from volunteers around the world. They suggested sources could include the eating of fish or drinking of water from plastic bottles.

People from eight countries took part in the study and up to 20 pieces of plastic were found in every 10 gram stool sample.

The study was done by researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria.

In what is considered to be the primary investigation of its kind, the team led by Philipp Schwabl, from the Medical University of Vienna, examined stool samples from eight individuals living in eight different countries, namely Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Austria. They also detected nine of the 10 common types of plastic polymers they looked for-notably polypropylene (used, for example, in bottle caps), polyethylene terephthalate (used in drink bottles) and polystyrene (used in food containers).

Gastroenterologist Philipp Schwabl and his colleagues asked their participants to keep a food diary for a week before packaging up their poop in a plastic-free sample kit and shipping it to Vienna.

Dr. Schwabl said in a statement that his team's study confirmed "what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut".

"Of particular concern is what this means to [medical professionals] and patients with gastrointestinal diseases", Schwabl said in an announcement of the new study.

In other studies, the highest microplastics concentrations were found in animals in the gastrointestinal tract, but smallest plastic particles were also found in blood, lymph and even in the liver.

It can be found in many foods and drinks from the sea salt on your meal to honey, shellfish, beer and even tap water.

Seawater samples collected throughout a 45,000 mile journey on the Volvo Ocean race round-the-world sailing event have revealed traces of microplastics nearly everywhere, including in the remotest waters in the Southern Ocean. Nine out of ten types of plastics searched for were found in all the samples.

On the back of the Viennese study the world awaits more information on the impact microplastics is having or will have on the human race as it finds its way into our food, but for the moment the results remain inconclusive, if sinister. Once in the oceans, they are ingested by sea creatures and fish. But he says that in "animal studies, it has been shown that microplastics may cause intestinal damage, remodeling of the intestinal villi, distortion of iron absorption and hepatic stress". Significant amounts of microplastic have been detected in tuna, lobster and shrimp.

"This is very much a preliminary study", said Alistair Boxall, professor in environmental science at the University of York in England, who called for more work to be done to understand where ingested microplastics originate. "It's inevitable some of these things will get into our lungs and digestive systems".

"I believe that trying to reduce plastic usage and plastic-packed food might be beneficial for nature and for us", Schwabl said.

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