Microplastics Can Find Their Way Into Your Gut, Study Says

Significant amounts of plastic have been detected in tuna during previous studies. File pic

This huge amount of plastic either washes ashore or breaks down into tiny pieces that are less than 5 millimeters in diameter and are called microplastics. It turns out those plastics are also lodging in our gut through our food and water intake, according to research results presented this week at the United European Gastoenterology (UEG) Week conference in Vienna.

"Now that we have the first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health", Schwabl said.

He explains that the biggest concentration of plastic in animal studies were found in the gut, but the smaller particles can enter the blood stream, lymphatic system, and even the liver. For the study, invited the inhabitants of eight countries: Italy, Japan, Poland, Holland, Russia, great Britain, Finland and Austria. Up to nine different plastics, sized between 50 and 500 micrometres, were found, with polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) being the most common. In addition, many USA cities are moving to ban plastic straws and single-use items such as cotton swabs and drink stirrers, which can break down into microplastics.

By the World Economic Forum's estimation, the world's oceans will be filled with more plastic than fish by weight by 2050. Tiny pieces were found in samples from every participant in an experiment which tried to estimate how much plastic we eat and drink every day. "We're just simply missing the frame of reference", says Martin Wagner, an ecotoxicologist at Norwegian University of Science and Technology who was not involved in the new study. Each participant kept a food log throughout the study, showing they were exposed to plastics through bottled water or plastic-wrapped food.

The diaries also showed that none of the participants were vegetarians and six of them consumed sea fish. "Now that we know we can detect microplastics in humans, we can develop larger studies, in both healthy and diseased patients, to find out if they are a contributing factor". Dr Schwabl admitted: 'Personally, I did not expect each sample would be tested positive'.

Schwabi's team recruited eight subjects for the pilot study and found an average of 20 microplastic particles per 10g of excrement, reports The Times.

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Up to nine different kinds of plastics were detected, ranging in size from.002 to.02 inches. Because of these multiple plastic, the researchers can not identify the source of the ingested plastic for sure, Schwabl says: "Through pollution, 2 to 5 % of all plastics produced end up in the seas".

With microplastics found in so things like shellfish, water, and salt it would seem likely it's in us and now for the first time there's initial evidence microplastics are indeed being consumed by humans. If we're taking plastic in on one end, and we can't digest it, it's expected and logical that we'd see it on the other end, too.

In a small, first-of-its-kind study, researchers have found microplastics in stool samples from people around the world.

It has become virtually impossible to escape eating plastic, but its health implications are largely unknown.

Schwabl said it seemed that the rise in plastic pollution was an nearly inevitable bi-product of the way society operates, adding: "It is likely that the amount of plastic contamination may rise further if mankind does not change the current situation".

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