Microplastics are not just showing up on beaches, salt, fish and beer. They are showing up in human waste as well.
Microplastics have been found in human stool samples from countries in many parts of the world, according to a small pilot study being presented this week at the 26th annual United European Gastroenterology conference in Vienna, Austria.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria, looked at stool samples of individuals in various countries. Every stool sample tested positive for up to nine different plastic types, with an average of 20 particles of plastic per 10 grams of stool.
All stool samples contained polypropylene and polyethylene-terephthalate particles, which are major components of plastic bottle caps and plastic bottles, plastic food wrappers, plastic food pouches and other plastic items which are in contact with food items.
In the study, which is the first of its kind, each person ate their regular diet and kept a food diary in the week leading up to their stool sampling. All participants were exposed to plastics by consuming foods that had been packed / wrapped in plastic as well as beverages in plastic bottles.
The concern is microplastics “entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and … even reach the liver.” In animal and fish studies, microplastics have been shown to cause intestinal damage and liver failures.
The world produces about 400 million metric tons of plastic a year, the equivalent of 882 billion pounds, and 80 percent ends up deposited in landfills and other parts of the environment. The smallest particles, the microplastics, range from 10 nanometers — so tiny they are invisible to the human eye — up to to 5 millimeters in diameter. Microplastics — including microfibers from clothing — are floating in the air, and are found in most of our bottled and tap water, supermarket food, our beer, our sea, rock and lake salt, and our soil.
Not only is the potential migration of the plastics throughout our body a concern, but the additives in plastics carry tremendous health risks. Many of these additives are known endocrine disrupters and are causing all sorts of cancers.
It is not surprising that microplastics are being found in human stools. “We’ve mismanaged our waste,” and it’s come back to haunt us at our dinner table. Now we are literally eating our own trash.