VIENNA (CBS Local) — The ocean isn’t the only thing filled with plastic. Our bodies are also polluted with plastic, according to a new study from Austrian scientists.
Hundreds of small plastic pieces known as microplastics were found in stool samples of each volunteer who participated in a small pilot study by the Environment Agency Austria and the Medical University of Vienna.
“This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected — that plastics ultimately reach the human gut,” lead researcher Dr. Philipp Schwabl said Tuesday. “Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases.”
Schwabl says the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream and lymphatic system and may even reach the liver.
Researchers monitored eight healthy volunteers from different parts of the world, including the UK, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Austria. Each one kept a diary of the food and drink they consumed for a week.
Every stool sample tested positive for the presence of microplastics – with up to nine different types identified. The most common were polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene-terephthalate (PET), both found in food and drink packaging.
Previous studies have found microplastics to be present in everything from beer to table salt.
“Plastics are pervasive in everyday life and humans are exposed to plastics in numerous ways,” said Dr. Schwabl, who is presenting the research at the 26th annual United European Gastroenterology conference in Vienna.
“Now that we have first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.”