Researchers at the Vienna University of Medicine and the Austrian Environment Agency, headed by Dr. Philip Svalbell, made the announcement at the worldwide gastroenterology conference of the United European Gastroenterology (UEG Week) organized in the Austrian capital.
Much more research is needed, he said, before we can determine the origin of plastics found in the gut, and especially whether they are harmful. This week, researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and Environment Agency Austria announced they have found microplastics - particles of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters - in stool samples from each one of their human test subjects.
The pilot study recruited eight participants from the UK, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Austria.
Each person kept a food diary during the week before they provided a stool sample. The most frequently found types of plastic were polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are the two most common kinds of plastic used in food packaging and labeling.
Researchers say microplastics circulating in the human body could endanger health, affecting the immune system or facilitating the exchange of toxins, according to the Guardian.
But this study, which was small, suggests that plastic, whether it's bad for us or not, is already in all of us.
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Small pieces of plastic are making their way into the human gut as people eat contaminated seafood and come into contact with plastic-packaged food and drink, a study on human stools has found. The results are presented today at the International UEG Gastroenterology Congress in Vienna and form the basis for further investigations on a larger scale.
Humans rely on plastic, and now it's becoming part of us - literally.
Kanani believes it could be challenging to study the effects that ingesting plastics has on human health, as people cannot be expected to eat plastic for research purposes.
Microplastics are most likely to infiltrate humans via the gastrointestinal tract; once the little buggers slip into your gut, they can accumulate or transmit toxic chemicals through the body. Founder of a British Organic food company Guy Singh-Watson told BBC news that the public's tunnel vision over recycling could even be unsafe. The samples were analyzed at the Environment Agency Austria.
Scientists have revealed for the first time that humans are ingesting microscopic plastic particles in their food. Which, if one thinks about it, only makes sense since we're eating and drinking them.
"Most people are going to be shocked at the idea of thinking there is plastic inside them", Keith Brooks, program director of Environmental Defence, told CTV News. The microplastics measured between 50 and 500 micrometers; for comparison, a single strand of human hair is about 100 micrometers thick.