There is Probably Plastic in Your Poop – Here's Why

Those pesky microplastics are finding their way into our guts.
Monday 17 December 2018
A refreshing drink of water with a side of microplastics? Photo: iStock

Brace yourself, there’s a good chance there’s some plastic in your poop. New research presented on Tuesday at the 26th UEG Week (United European Gastroenterology Week) in Vienna has revealed that researchers have found microplastics in human stools for the first time.

Carried out by researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria, the small pilot study looked at eight participants from countries around the world including Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the UK and Austria. The participants were asked to keep a food diary for one week before providing stool samples for analysis at the Environment Agency Austria.

After analysing the samples for ten types of plastic using a new analytical procedure, the researchers found that every single stool sample tested positive for the presence of microplastic – small particles of plastic less than 5mm in size. Up to nine different plastic types were found, sized between 50 and 500 micrometres. On average, the researchers found 20 microplastic particles per 10g of stool.

Polypropylene (PP), which is used in food packaging, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), used in plastic bottles, were the most common plastic found. The participants’ food diaries also showed that they had all been exposed to plastics through their diet by consuming foods wrapped in plastic or drinking from plastic bottles.

iced-coffee-istock - plastic
Maybe our takeaway coffees are responsible for more than just a caffeine hit. Photo: iStock

The diaries also showed that none of the participants were vegetarians and six of them consumed sea fish. It is estimated that, due to pollution, 2 to 5 percent of all plastics produced end up in the seas where they are consumed by sea animals and enter the food chain. They are then likely to also be consumed by humans. Significant amounts of microplastic have already been detected in tuna, lobster and shrimp.

The findings are concerning as microplastic may negatively affect human health by entering the gastrointestinal tract, where it could affect the tolerance and immune response of the gut. Lead researcher Dr Philipp Schwabl commented on the findings saying, “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.”

“While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the bloodstream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver. Now that we have first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.” The findings are just another reason to think twice about our use of plastic.

Source: AFP Relaxnews

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