Microplastics found in human faeces

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

Plastic is washed into the ocean where it disintegrates into tiny particles Credit Sarah Knapton

The NOAA defines microplastic as a piece of plastic that is less than five millimeters in length.

The stools were tested at the Environment Agency Austria for 10 types of plastics following a newly developed analytical procedure.

The research from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria analysed and tracked stool samples from Europe and Asia, including Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and Austria.

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

Schwabl said in a statement released by the conference that the highest plastic concentrations in previous animals studies show collections of plastics in the gut, but the smallest particles could potentially enter the blood stream, and even the lymphatic system and the liver. For the study, invited the inhabitants of eight countries: Italy, Japan, Poland, Holland, Russia, great Britain, Finland and Austria. Each one kept a diary of the food and drink they consumed for a week. Polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate were found to be the most common. A study released earlier this year found that 93% of water in plastic bottles sampled was contaminated with microplastics. We need urgent action from governments to massively reduce plastic use and ensure any we do use, which must be essential, is captured and properly recycled.' Alistair Boxall, professor in environmental science at the University of York, said: 'It is a very interesting study and highlights that humans are being exposed to microplastics in our day-to-day lives'.

There isn't any evidence so far of whether ingesting microplastics is risky to humans, let alone the specific effects, but the researchers believe that gastrointestinal plastic might have a clinical impact. "Plastic is not in itself an evil material, it is the fact that we use so much of it", said Singh-Watson. The study examined stool samples from volunteers in several countries finding plastic in all. It is estimated that, through pollution, 2-5 % of all plastics produced end up in the seas.

Recently, there have been a rush of studies revealing how tiny pieces of plastic are making it into the environment, including in the fish and even the salt we eat. But research into its effects on human health are limited, Ruairi Robertson, a postdoctoral researcher in studies of the gut at the University of British Columbia, said by phone.

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

Contamination of food through processing or packaging as a result of plastic wrapped food items and drinks in plastic bottles have also been cited. None of the participants were vegetarians and six of them consumed wild fish. The respective research found that human feces present microplastics traces, so the issue is quite severe in this regard. "We were quite astonished that we found microplastics in every single sample", Liebmann says.

Twenty microplastic particles were found in every 10 grams of stool, indicating that humans are most likely ingesting them through food. Founder of a British Organic food company Guy Singh-Watson told BBC news that the public's tunnel vision over recycling could even be risky. Once there, the plastic is eaten by sea animals and enter the food chain.

All eight stool samples showed microplastics between 50 and 500 micrometers in diameter.

Waste plastic bottles and other types of plastic waste at disposal site.

Latest News