After the 26th United European Gastroenterology Week (UEG) in Vienna, the public learned a grim truth. According to a study presented at the meeting, microplastics made their way into the human body and were found the stools for the first time.
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 U.K., and Austria.
The participants were asked to keep a diary for a week and at the end of it to provide stool samples. The samples were analyzed at the Environment Agency Austria.
The results of the analysis came with shocking facts: there were ten types of plastic in the stool samples. The researchers found every sample tested positive for the presence of small particles of plastic smaller than 5 mm – also known as microplastics.
Nine different types of plastic were found in the samples – with sizes varying from 50 and 500 micrometers. At 10g of stool, researchers found an average of 20 microplastic particles.
Food Packaging and Plastic Bottles
The most common plastic found in the samples were Polypropylene (PP), which is used in food packaging, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is used in plastic bottles.
According to the participant’s food diaries, they were all exposed to plastic as they consumed food that was wrapped in plastic or drank from plastic bottles.
None of the participants were vegetarians, and six of them consumed sea fish. Sea animals are at high risk of consuming plastic that is found in the sea due to pollution. Then, microplastics enter the food chain and are also consumed by humans. Previous research has shown that there were found big amounts of microplastics in tuna, lobster, and shrimp.
The lead researcher of this pilot study, Dr. Philipp Schwabl, expressed his concerns:
“This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut. Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases.”
He explains that the biggest concentration of plastic in animal studies were found in the gut, but the smaller particles can enter the blood stream, lymphatic system, and even the liver. Schwabl concludes that with the first such evidence in humans, “we need further research to understand what this means for human health.”
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere