Viennese researchers have found tiny particles in stool samples. The results of the study will be presented this Tuesday.

Microplastic In Human Organism

Researchers from the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and MedUni Vienna have found microplastics in the context of a pilot study in all eight volunteers. It was the first time that microplastics were detected in humans, according to a report by MedUni and UBA. The results of the study will be presented on Tuesday at the UEG Gastroenterology Congress in Vienna.

Participants in the study were five women and three men, aged from 33 to 65, living in
Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, Russia, Japan, and Austria. They kept a food diary for a week and then gave a stool sample. All subjects consumed plastic- packed food or drinks from PET bottles, the majority of them consumed fish or seafood, and no one ate only vegetarian food.

On average, 20 microplastic particles per ten grams of stool were found. “In our laboratory, we were able to detect nine different types of plastic in the size of 50 to 500 microns,” reported by Bettina Liebmann, the expert in microplastic analysis at the UBA. The most common were PP (polypropylene) and PET (polyethylene terephthalate). It was analyzed in terms of ten of the world’s most widely used plastics.

“Due to the small number of subjects, we can not reliably establish connections between nutritional behavior and exposure to microplastics,” first author Philipp Schwabl was quoted by MedUni’s Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. “The effects of the found microplastic particles on the human organism – especially on the digestive tract – can only be researched in a larger-scale study.”

In previous studies, the highest microplastic concentrations in the gastrointestinal tract were detected in animals, but even the smallest plastic particles are detectable in blood, lymph, and even liver. “Although there are some early indications that microplastics can damage the gastrointestinal tract by promoting inflammatory reactions or the absorption of harmful byproducts, further studies are needed to assess the potential dangers of microplastics to humans,” said Schwabl.

Microplastics are plastic particles smaller than five millimeters in size. It is used as an additive in cosmetic products but arises mainly unintentionally by crushing, abrasion or decomposition of larger plastic parts in the environment.

Global plastic production currently stands at over 400 million tons per year, explained UBA and MedUni in their release. It is estimated that two to five percent of it goes into the sea, where the waste is minced by marine animals and can reach humans via the food chain. In addition, it is very likely that food will come in contact with plastics during processing or through the packaging, and therefore also with microplastics.

Sources: Die Presse