According to research, bits of plastic have been detected in the faeces of people in Europe, Russia and Japan. For the first time the widespread presence of plastics in the human food chain is found. All eight volunteers in a small pilot study were found to have passed several types of plastic, with an average of 20 micro-particles per 10g of stool, researchers reported.
The scientists wondered that the tiny crumbs ranging in size from 50 to 500 micrometers may be ingested through seafood, food wrapping, dust or plastic bottles. A researcher while analyzing the sample said that they were able to detect nine different types of plastics in their laboratory. The two most common were polypropylene – found in bottle caps, rope and strapping and polyethylene, present in drinking bottles and textile fibres.
Together with polystyrene (utensils, cups, coolers) and polyethylene (plastic bags), they accounted for more than 95 per cent of the particles distinguished. The lead author Philipp Schwabl said that they were unable to find a dependable connection between nutritional behaviour and exposure to micro plastics.
In previous studies on animals, the maximum concentrations of micro plastics were found in the stomach and intestines; however minor amounts have also been discovered in blood, lymph and the liver.
Schwabl said that there are preliminary indications that micro plastics can harm the gastrointestinal tract by endorsing inflammatory reactions or absorbing unsafe substances. More studies are required to measure the potential dangers of micro plastics for humans. Schwabl enlisted five women and three men, aged 33 to 65, in Finland, the Netherlands, Britain, Italy, Poland, Russia, Japan and Austria. Each kept a week-long log of what they ate, and then provided a stool sample. All consumed foods wrapped in plastic and beverages in plastic bottles, and six ate seafood. None were vegetarians.
Scientists who were not mixed up in the study thought that it was too partial in scope to draw any definite conclusions, particularly about health impacts.
“I’m not at all surprised, or particularly worried by these findings,” commented Alistair Boxall, a professor in environmental science at the University of York in Britain. “Microplastics have been found in tap water, bottled water, fish and mussel tissue, and even in beer,” he added. “It is therefore inevitable that at least some of these things will get into our lungs and digestive system.”
He said that much other research is compulsory before determining the origin of plastics found in the gut, and especially whether they are harmful.
For Stephanie Wright, a researcher at King’s College London, the real question is whether plastics are gathered in the human body.
“What is unknown is whether the concentration of plastic being ingested is higher than that coming out, due to particles crossing the gut wall. There is no published evidence to indicate what the health effects might be.”
Global plastic production has grown quickly, and is presently more than 400 million tonnes per year. It is estimated that two to five per cent of plastics wind up in the ocean, where much of it breaks down into tiny particles.