Microplastics found in the human gut

Water bottle microplastics

Microplastics seem to be everywhere these days, so it’s unsurprising that tests now reveal their presence in the human gut. Austrian researchers have searched for microplastics in a range of human stool samples from around the world – and they were found in every case.

Samples were provided by participants from eight countries: Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the UK and Austria. Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria tested the samples for 10 types of plastic, using a new analytical procedure. Nine different types of plastic were discovered, in fragments ranging in size from 50 to 500µm – the most common being polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). On average, each 10g of stool was found to hold 20 microplastic particles.

Participants in the study also kept a food diary in the run-up to the analysis, and these records also reportedly showed that all participants were exposed to plastics by consuming plastic wrapped foods or drinking from plastic bottles. None of the participants were vegetarians and six of them consumed sea fish.

Experts estimate that around 2-5% of all plastics produced end up in the sea. Significant quantities of microplastic have been observed inside the bodies of tuna, lobster and shrimp.

“This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut,” said researcher Dr. Philipp Schwabl.

“Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases.”

“While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver. Now that we have first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.”