Humans swallowing tiny plastic particles in their food, study finds

26 October, 2018, 01:10 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Microplastics Are Everywhere — and That Likely Includes Your Poop

The ocean isn't the only thing filled with plastic.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria, looked at stool samples from eight individuals in eight different countries: Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and Austria.

"I believe that trying to reduce plastic usage and plastic-packed food might be beneficial for nature and for us", Schwabl said.

Schwabl recruited five women and three men, aged 33 to 65, in Finland, the Netherlands, Britain, Italy, Poland, Russia, Japan and Austria.

Lab tests found microplastic particles from 9 out of 10 plastic types, with sizes ranging from 50 to 500 microns.

"We will also be exposed to particles from house dust, food packaging materials and the use of plastic bottles".

Microplastics - shed by everything from synthetic clothing to road paint - are present in 83 per cent of tap water samples, all German beers and even in European rainwater, studies show. Microplastic may impact human health via the GI tract where it could affect the tolerance and immune response of the gut.

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Campaigners said the scale of the plastic crisis meant it was "impossible" for people to avoid eating, drinking and breathing in plastic - with potentially harmful effects. This study should not create panic because if microplastics enter body in small amount, they do not cause any harm as such.

However, an estimated 150 million tons of plastic are floating in the world's oceans, with an additional 8 million tons entering every year, according to the World Economic Forum. Did you drink from plastic bottles, eat fish or seafood, or any food that was packaged in plastic? 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 data showed that all of them had consumed food that came in plastic wrapping, and had drunk water from plastic bottles. None of the individuals were vegetarian and six of the eight people ate sea fish. The WHO launched the review in March after a separate study found microplastics in 90% of 259 bottles. Swabi has said that now that they have the ability to detect microplastics in stool a much larger study can be performed.

As you may know already, microplastics are tiny particles of plastic that are from 10 nanometers to 5 millimeters in size, so they could be so small that we cannot see them with the naked eye.

"Most people are going to be shocked at the idea of thinking there is plastic inside them", Keith Brooks, program director of Environmental Defence, told CTV News.

Others have noted that the microplastics are still too large to be absorbed into the body, but the chemical toxins the plastics absorb may leach out.

As Laura Parker writes for National Geographic, the test subjects' food diaries offer a thorough list of potential plastic culprits. Founder of a British Organic food company Guy Singh-Watson told BBC news that the public's tunnel vision over recycling could even be unsafe. Sea animals are at high risk of consuming plastic that is found in the sea due to pollution.

Bit by bit, it will break down and make its way back to us. Bettina Liebmann from the Federal Environment Agency and Philipp Schwabl from the Medical University of Vienna have succeeded in proving this.


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