Scientists have been warning us for years about the potential dangers of plastics in the human food chain. Now they say that they have the first real proof that we are actually picking up and releasing microscopic particles of petroleum-based material. That's right, people: According to a new study, we have plastics in our cabin.
The new research was presented this week in Vienna at UEG Week, a conference for the United European Gastroenterology Organization. There are stool samples from eight participants from all over the world: in Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and Austria
At the conference researchers of the Medical University of Vienna and the environment The Agency Austria reported in that each individual stool sample was tested positive for the presence of microplastics ̵
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Sure, it's pretty disgusting to know that we're consuming plastic. But what exactly does that mean for our health? This part is still unclear, but according to a press release from UEG Week, microplastics can accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract "where it could affect the tolerance and immune response of the gut". It can also help transport toxic chemicals and pathogens into the stomach's body, say scientists.
How These Plastic Particles Get Into The Gastrointestinal Tract Also is not known for sure. But researchers behind the study say plastic food and beverage containers may have something to do with it.
Microplastics are sometimes made for specific purposes (like the tiny scrub beads in some skin care products), but they can also be unwanted, resulting in larger plastic parts due to weathering or wear. Previous research has shown that bottled water can contain microplastics, and that people who frequently eat in restaurants have higher levels of phthalates – a chemical in some plastics – in their urine than those who eat mainly at home.
We could also consume animals – such as fish and other types of seafood – that have taken up microplastics found in the environment. Participants in the new study kept food diaries the week before their stool sample, showing that they were exposed to all plastic-packed food or plastic bottles. None of them were vegetarians, and six had consumed fish.
In the new study, all microplastics found were between 50 and 500 microns. On average, every 10 grams of stool contained about 50 microplastic particles.
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Senior Researcher Philipp Schwabl, MD, … 2 / index.html A press release states that this study confirms what has long been suspected: that plastics can enter the human gut. This is worrying for human health, he says, especially for patients with gastrointestinal disorders.
"While the highest plastic concentrations have been found in animal studies in the intestine, the smallest microplastic particles can enter the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, and possibly even reach the liver," said Drs. Schwabl. "Now that we have initial evidence of microplastics in humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health."
This research can not come soon enough, say many scientists and activists. Global plastic production has increased dramatically since the 1950s, according to the World Economic Forum, and continues to grow each year. Not only that most people are exposed to plastic regularly as part of their everyday lives, but an estimated 2 to 5% of the manufactured plastics end up in waterways, where they are consumed by marine animals and enter the food chain.
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In July, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a statement designed to help people navigate the confusing world of plastics and potential health risks. The organization recommends avoiding plastics that contain the recycling codes 3, 6 and 7, unless they are also labeled as "bio-based" or "greenware".
These classes of plastics (including phthalates, styrene and bisphenols) are the strongest evidence of potential health risks, says the AAP, especially for children and pregnant women. But the statement also recommends taking precautions when handling all types of plastic: Do not put it in the microwave or dishwasher, she says, and try to choose whole foods over processed and packaged whenever possible.
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