In a study presented at a prestigious global gastroenterology conference, there was a surprising revelation – small plastic pieces, also known as microplastics, were found in stool samples of participants, thereby suggesting there may be a significant amount of microplastic present in the human food chain.
Based on this study, the authors estimated that “more than 50% of the world population might have microplastics in their stools”. Samples from the eight subjects were sent to a laboratory in Vienna where they were analysed using a Fourier-transform infrared microspectrometer.
Researchers from the Environment Agency Austria and the Medical University of Vienna followed eight healthy volunteers from different parts of the world – Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, United Kingdom and Austria. The participants supposedly maintained a diary in which they logged in what food or drink they consumed for a week. The researchers then tested their stool for 10 different types of plastics. It was found that all of their stool samples were found to contain microplastic particles. On an average, 20 particles of microplastic were found in each 10 grams of excreta.
As per the findings of the research, nine different types of plastics were found in the samples. An average of 20 microplastic particles measuring between 50 and 500 micrometers were found per 10 grams of stool.
Philipp Schwabl, the lead researcher of the study, said, “Personally, I did not expect that each sample would be tested positive”.
It is not really conclusive as to how the plastics entered the bodies of the people who participated in the study but Schwabl pointed out that most participants who drank liquids from plastic bottles and also ate seafood, could in a way be bringing microplastics from ocean pollution up the food chain. It must be noted that no vegetarians were included in the sample of the research.
“This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut. Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases”, Philipp Schwabl said.