Humans swallowing tiny plastic particles in their food, study finds

Audrey Hill
October 26, 2018

Until now most research has focused on the natural world, but the new study shows that humans are also consuming plastic, with some pieces potentially lodging in our bodies.

The study was undertaken by the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria, and presented at the United European Gastroenterology conference held this week in Vienna, Austria.

Speaking about the findings Dr Luiza Mirpuri, the organisation's medical adviser, said: "It will be catastrophic, not now but in the third generation because each time we have diseases, new diseases from new contaminants".

The study focused in detail on eight people from around the world: one each from the United Kingdom, Italy, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands, Finland, Russia and Japan.

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. Other forms of plastics noted were polypropylene - commonly found in bottle caps and polyvinyl chloride or PVC found in plastic pipes. Microplastics have been found in tap water, bottled water, fish and mussel tissue and even in beer.

Even if microplastics are found in stool, this doesn't mean they have entered the human body, he said. In addition, many USA cities are moving to ban plastic straws and single-use items such as cotton swabs and drink stirrers, which can break down into microplastics. Several studies have found high levels of microplastics in marine life, and past year, microplastics were detected in 83 percent of tap water samples around the world (the highest contamination rate belonged to the United States, where 94 percent of samples were contaminated).

It is estimated up to 5% of plastics produced end up in the sea.

Scientists not involved in the study said it was too limited in scope to draw any firm conclusions, especially about health impacts.

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The research was presented at this week at UEG Week in Vienna, Austria, the largest gastroenterology meeting in Europe. "Most participants drank liquids from plastic bottles, but also fish and seafood ingestion was common". "Even though we don't have concrete results of what plastic might be doing to our health, because we don't know that yet, we do know plastic is damaging our environment and other species and probably damaging our health as well - we need to make a global effort to clamp down on its use". Six had consumed ocean fish.

This comes as a study found evidence of microscopic plastic particles in human waste from around the world. "Personally, I didn't expect that each example would be tested positive".

In total, nine of 10 distinct types of microplastics were identified in the samples.

Scientists believe the plastic was ingested through plastic-wrapped food or drinking from plastic bottles.

"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".

And they found them. "They've definitively established what so many of us suspected - we're ingesting these plastics". You can further help us by making a donation.

Not only is the potential migration of the plastics throughout our body a concern, but the additives in plastics may carry health risks. It was found that all of their stool samples were found to contain microplastic particles.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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