Published: Thu, October 25, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Microplastics detected in human feces internationally, study finds

Microplastics detected in human feces internationally, study finds

But we now know that it is not less risky plastic is for the human body.

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. "Now that we have the first evidence of microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health".

It was once thought the risk to health was largely limited to eating marine creatures from oceans polluted with plastic.

Schwabl presented his findings today (Oct. 22) at UEG Week in Vienna, a European gastroenterology meeting. The countries from which the samples were taken were: Italy, the Netherlands, Britain, Austria, Poland, Russia, Finland and Japan.

"Due to the small number of volunteers, we are unable to establish a reliable connection between nutritional behavior and exposure to microplastics", Schwabl, of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at MedUni Vienna, said. Microplastics can also potentially pass into the bloodstream. But animal studies have shown they can carry and deliver pollutants into our bodies. He said "Although there are initial indications that microplastics can damage the gastrointestinal tract by promoting inflammatory reactions or absorbing harmful substances, further studies are needed to assess the potential dangers of microplastics for humans". The participants supposedly maintained a diary in which they logged in what food or drink they consumed for a week.

Before the examination of their stool samples, the participants recorded what they ate for a week. The researchers then tested their stool for 10 different types of plastics.

Schwabi's team recruited eight subjects for the pilot study and found an average of 20 microplastic particles per 10g of excrement, reports The Times.

Global plastic production has grown rapidly, and is now more than 400 million tonnes per 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.

Microplastics usually found in the soil oceans tap and bottled water
Microplastics usually found in the soil oceans tap and bottled water

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

"Significant amounts of plastic have been detected in tuna, lobster and shrimp", says the Belfast-based newspaper, which notes that food is also "likely to be contaminated with plastic as a result of processing or packaging". Diaries indicated they were all exposed to plastics through food wrapping or by drinking from plastic containers. Norwegian research estimates that in Europe and North America, between 110,000 and 730,000 tons of microplastic are transferred to agricultural soils each year. 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.

"We are having more cancer, more allergic diseases, more infertility".

"People shouldn't be frightened, but we should all be very aware that clearly there's way, way too much plastic in our environment and we are hugely overusing single-use plastic", he said.

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.

Other plastic types included polyoxymethylene (car parts and food industry), polycarbonate (construction and electronics), nylon (rope, fishing nets and textiles) and polyurethane (ship varnish, construction and auto parts).

Dr Stephanie Wright, a research fellow at King's College London, said "the fact that so many different polymers were measured suggests a wide range of contamination sources".

So is all that plastic making us sick? This means journalists are losing the ability to hold the rich and powerful to account.

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