Climate Action

Study finds humans are now ingesting microplastics

A new study has found that humans are ingesting microplastics.

  • 23 October 2018
  • Rachel Cooper

A new study has found that humans are ingesting microplastics.

The study, commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency and the Medical University of Vienna, has found microplastics in the human stool.

The international study involved five women and three men aged 33-65 who lived in different parts of the world. They kept a nutrition diary for one week and then gave a stool sample.

The study found that all participants consumed plastic-packed food or beverages from PET bottles, the majority of them consumed fish or seafood and no one was fed on exclusively vegetarian food.

The Federal Environment Agency analysed the participants stool in the laboratory with regard to ten of the most widely used plastics in the world. For the eight people studied, on average 20 microplastics particles per 10 grams of stool were found.

Philipp Schwabl, first author who works at the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Medical University Vienna, said: “Due to the small number of volunteers, we are unable to establish a reliable connection between nutritional behaviour and exposure to microplastics. The effects of the microplastic particles found on the human organism – in particular on the digestive tract – can only be investigated in the context of a larger study.”

In other studies, the highest microplastics concentrations were found in animals in the digestive system, but smallest plastic particles were also found in blood, lymph and even in the liver. It has also been reported that 90 per cent of seabirds have plastic in their stomach.

Philipp Schwabl added: “Although there are initial indications that microplastics can damage the gastrointestinal tract by promoting inflammatory reactions or absorbing harmful substances, further studies are needed to assess the potential dangers of microplastics for humans.”

This news follows the UK Government announcing to implement a ban on straws, cotton-buds and stirrers in attempt to reduce the growing plastic pollution.