Microplastics found in human stools in ‘first study of its kind’

Plastic is washed into the ocean where it disintegrates into tiny particles

"While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver".

It's not surprising, then, that a new pilot study also found microplastic in human poop.

Scientists collected samples from eight participants in the UK, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Austria - and found that every single sample contained tiny particles of up to nine types of plastic. Every participant was exposed to plastic in the form of wrapping on food or in bottles.

Researchers say microplastics circulating in the human body could endanger health, affecting the immune system or facilitating the exchange of toxins, according to the Guardian.

The findings are based on analysis of the stools of the eight volunteers, from Britain, Austria, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland and Russian Federation. Six of them consumed sea fish that often consume microplastics. It is estimated that, due to pollution, 2 to 5 per cent of all plastics produced end up in the seas where they are consumed by sea animals and enter the food chain.

Each person taking part in the study kept a food diary for a week before having their stools samples taken. Microbeads in commercial beauty products, for example, have recently been banned in the United Kingdom after it was discovered that they attract toxic pollutants, end up in the stomachs of wildlife and enter the human food chain.

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"We were unable to establish a reliable connection between nutritional behaviour and exposure to microplastics", said lead author Philipp Schwabl, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna. These four types of plastic are typically used in products like plastic bags and containers, and made up over 95% of the total microplastic found in the samples.

"I'm not at all surprised, or particularly anxious by these findings", commented Alistair Boxall, a professor in environmental science at the University of York in Britain.

The scientists speculated that the tiny specks - ranging in size from 50 to 500 micrometres - may have been ingested via seafood, food wrapping, dust or plastic bottles.

Much more research is needed, he said, before we can determine the origin of plastics found in the gut, and especially whether they are harmful.

Microplastics - shed by everything from synthetic clothing to road paint - are present in 83 per cent of tap water samples, all German beers and even in European rainwater, studies show. "It's therefore inevitable that at least some of these things will get into our lungs and digestive systems".



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