Plastic particles found in human digestive systems


The study examined stool samples from volunteers in several countries finding plastic in all.

Dr Philipp Schwabl, who led the research, said: 'This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected - plastics ultimately reach the human gut.

In other studies, the highest microplastics concentrations were found in animals in the gastrointestinal tract, but smallest plastic particles were also found in blood, lymph and even in the liver.

He said further research was needed to understand what this means for human health.

Although the study is a small one, geared toward showing microplastics can be detected in excrement and are actually found there, it tees up future work to look for broader patterns of human microplastic exposure and the potential associated health impacts.

It was once thought the risk to health was largely limited to eating marine creatures from oceans polluted with plastic. The research was presented today at the 26th UEG Week in Vienna. He and his colleagues found that all eight stool samples contained polypropylene and polyethylene-terephthalate particles, which are major components of plastic bottle caps and plastic bottles. They dug through the poop of a group of participants from countries around the globe, including Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Austria.

Volunteers from eight countries, including Britain, all had the potentially risky particles in their systems, tests showed. As Schwabl explains, microplastics may build up in the intestine over time, causing inflammation and potentially affecting the gut's tolerance and immune system. But animal studies have shown they can carry and deliver pollutants into our bodies.

According to the NOAA's National Ocean Service, microplastics come from various sources, including larger plastic debris that breaks down into smaller pieces.

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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. All the participants were asked to maintain a food diary for a week and then donate a sample of their stools in sterile glass containers provided to them. Six of them had eaten fish.

"In our laboratory, we were able to detect nine different types of plastics ranging in size from 50 to 500 micrometres", said Bettina Liebmann from the Federal Environment Agency. On average, 20 microplastic particles were discovered for every 10g of stool.

Global plastic production has grown rapidly since the 1950s and now is more than 400 million tons per year.

It is estimated that, globally, between two and five per cent of all plastics end up in the water.

Scientists believe the plastic was ingested through plastic-wrapped food or drinking from plastic bottles.

But these products come from very different places - indicating microplastics are far more pervasive than we might think.

"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. Earlier this year experts issued a warning that plastic contamination could soon be "catastrophic" for human health. It will likely only get worse, too. Many of these additives are known endocrine disrupters.