Microplastics detected in human feces internationally, study finds

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

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

Tiny particles of up to nine different types of plastic were found in every sample investigated - with people from the United Kingdom and seven other countries taking part in the study.

"What is unknown is whether the concentration of plastic being ingested is higher than that coming out, due to particles crossing the gut wall", she said.

The stools were tested for 11 kinds of microplastics, of which up to nine were identified in each participant.

Lead researcher Dr Phillip Schwabi from the university said: "Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases".

The research was presented at this week at UEG Week in Vienna, Austria, the largest gastroenterology meeting in Europe.

Risky microplastics - usually found in the soil, oceans, tap and bottled water - have now soiled our poop too. It had been thought the risk to health was largely limited to eating fish from oceans polluted with plastic, but the study proved that microplastics are also in the air.

The other seven countries who took part were Austria, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland and Russian Federation.

Scientists have found that microplastics act like a sponge and absorb other chemical pollution already found in the water, such as DDT, a pesticide linked to reproductive system damage that was banned in the United States 40 years ago, but is still used in some countries, such as China.

Microplastics are bits of plastic that measure under 0.2 inches (5 millimeters) in length - about the size of a sesame seed or smaller.




Even if microplastics are found in stool, this doesn't mean they have entered the human body, he said. Each one kept a diary of the food and drink they consumed for a week. None of the participants was a vegetarian and six of them ate sea fish. The latest research suggests that microplastics are also entering the human body even more directly.

Twenty microplastic particles were found in every 10 grams of stool, indicating that humans are most likely ingesting them through food.

Global plastics production has increased dramatically from the 1950s and continues to grow every year.

"Plastics are unavoidable in regular day to day existence and humans are exposed to plastics in numerous ways", Schwabl said in a Q&A. It is estimated that two to five percent of the plastic produced ends up in the sea, where the waste is crushed and absorbed by marine animals and can reach humans via the food chain. Significant amounts of microplastic have been detected in animal guts and fishes like tuna, lobster and shrimp. Previous research has revealed that little flecks of plastic frequently end up in our food and water. One study found plastic fibers in the majority of tap water. Exposure to it has been found to result in genital deformities and early puberty and may even contribute to obesity and cancer.

In most cases the levels were quite low - with the notable exception of shellfish. At the same time, they considered 11 types of plastic.

More than 50% of the world population might have microplastics in their stools.

But with the new work, "now we know how to tackle the problem, and we have the tools at hand" to start looking at microplastics in humans beyond the assumptions that have been made before, Liebmann says.

Rochman said the Austrian study should get people thinking about actions they and their governments are taking around plastic disposal.

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