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Microplastics detected in human stool samples for the first time
Microplastics have not only been demonstrated in the world's oceans, but also in the air, in drinking water and in food. Now tiny plastic particles have also been discovered in human stool samples for the first time. In the future, the effects of plastic on the human organism should be researched further.
Plastic particles in food and in drinking water
In recent years, various scientific studies have shown how widespread microplastic exposure is now. For example, scientists have detected plastic particles in drinking water and also in beer. Plastic particles have also been discovered in foods such as sea salt and fish. It is therefore not really surprising that researchers have now demonstrated microplastics in humans for the first time.
Microplastics discovered in human stool for the first time
In a study by the Austrian Federal Environment Agency and the Medical University of Vienna, microplastics in human stool were discovered for the first time - in all of the eight international participants.
As the university reports in a statement, the five women and three men aged 33 to 65 live in Finland, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Italy, Poland, Russia, Japan and Austria.
The subjects kept a food diary for a week and then gave a stool sample.
According to the information provided, the study participants consumed plastic-wrapped food or beverages from PET bottles, the majority of them consumed fish or seafood, and no one was exclusively vegetarian.
PP and PET were the most common
Scientists from the Austrian Federal Environment Agency analyzed the participants' stools in the laboratory with regard to ten of the world's most widespread plastics.
Microplastics in the stool were found in all eight people, on average 20 microplastic particles per ten grams of stool.
"In our laboratory, we were able to detect nine different types of plastic ranging in size from 50 to 500 micrometers," explained Bettina Liebmann, the expert responsible for microplastic analysis at the Federal Environment Agency.
PP (polypropylene) and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) were found most frequently in the samples.
Effects on the human organism
"Due to the small number of test subjects, we cannot establish correlations between nutritional behavior and exposure to microplastics," said first author Philipp Schwabl from the Clinical Department for Gastroenterology and Hepatology at MedUni Vienna.
According to the expert, "the effects of the microplastic particles found on the human organism" - especially on the digestive tract - "can only be researched as part of a larger study".
Other studies in animals found that the highest levels of microplastic in the gastrointestinal tract were found in other studies, but the smallest plastic particles were also found in the blood, lymph and even in the liver.
"Although there are first signs that microplastics can damage the gastrointestinal tract by favoring inflammatory reactions or the inclusion of harmful accompanying substances, further studies are necessary to assess the potential dangers of microplastics for humans," said Schwabl.
Global plastic production has grown rapidly
Plastic particles with a size smaller than five millimeters are called microplastics. This is used, among other things, as an additive in cosmetic products, but is mainly caused by unwanted comminution, abrasion or decomposition of larger plastic parts in the environment.
Global plastic production has grown rapidly since the 1950s and is currently over 400 million tons per year.
According to estimates, two to five percent of the plastic produced ends up in the sea. According to scientific studies, plastic waste can now be found in all sea regions. Plastic waste has already been discovered in Arctic waters.
In the oceans, waste is shredded and absorbed by marine animals and can then reach humans via the food chain.
In addition, food is very likely to come into contact with plastics during processing or through packaging - and therefore also with microplastics. (ad)