Our Bodies Are Polluted With Plastic, Scientists Warn

Microplastics Are Everywhere — and That Likely Includes Your Poop

Plastic pollution breaks down into microplastics. Credit Shutterstock

"The reality of the situation is that there hasn't been enough scientific research to ascertain whether or not consuming plastic is actually harmful to the human body or not, and if so, what negative effects it has on human health", advises Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click. They suggested that these containers could cause contact with the plastic in the body. Now we are literally eating our own trash.

Previous studies have found microplastics to be present in everything from beer to table salt.

Microplastics are particles of plastic less than 5 millimetres and are used in various products.

It is feared that plastics could also deliver toxic chemicals - such as poisonous metals or hormones that interfere with normal sexual development - directly into our bodies.

'It is likely that the larger particles are just passing through.

Moreover, research shows that pollutants are more easily released from plastics into the digestive tract of animals than in seawater, increasing the risk of the ingestion and absorption of hazardous substances, while the durability of plastics in the digestive system could pose risks related to prolonged exposure.

The study "confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut", study lead author Dr. Philipp Schwabl, a physician scientist at the Medical University of Vienna's Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, said in a statement.

Asked if there was any particular age group which was more susceptible to ill-effects of microplastsics, Dr Schwabl said, "Probably patients who suffer from chronic inflammatory bowel diseases might be more susceptible". The smallest particles are even capable of entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system and could even reach the liver. While the study was centered around seven European countries-Finland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, United Kingdom and Austria, Indian doctors this reporter spoke to say they will not be surprised if a similar study in India yields similar results. The researchers found nine types of microplastics, and the majority was either polypropylene, which is used for food wrapping, or polyethylene-terephthalate, a material for plastic bottles. Both are commonly found in food and drink packaging. Dunkler was not involved in the current research.

The study's participants wrote down everything they ate for the week before the stool samples. "Most participants drank liquids from plastic bottles, but also fish and seafood ingestion was common". Six had consumed ocean fish.

On average, researchers found 20 microplastic particles-ranging in size from 50 to 500 micrometers-per 10 grams of feces.

Tiny pieces of plastic measuring less than five millimeters in length-or roughly the size of a sesame seed-have become a almost ubiquitous presence in our world.

One study earlier this year found that fish in Hong Kong were ingesting plastic which could end up in humans. Significant amounts of plastic have been detected in tuna, lobster and shrimp.

It's too soon to tell if these microplastic shards could have any human health risks, Schwabl said, because now there are "no human studies which give answer to this question".

Researchers have collected stool samples from different parts of the globe, with all samples testing positive for microplastics.

For their many practical characteristics they are pervasive in everyday life and humans are exposed to them in numerous ways. They are also made up of fibers shed by synthetic fabrics, and plastic beads added to some cosmetics.

In the next 60 seconds, people around the world will purchase 1 million plastic bottles and 2 million plastic bags.

Some scientists believe plastic particles can even be ingested through the air.

"The global plastic problem is totally out of control", Greenpeace's senior oceans campaigner Louise Edge told the Daily Mail.

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