Microplastics have infiltrated the planet, from remote mountain regions to the deepest parts of the ocean. Because of the extensive reach of these microscopic pollutants via air, water, or the food chain, scientists are exploring the origins of and quantity of microplastics entering human bodies. Scientists from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria recently conducted a study examining human stool samples for microplastics. Their peer-reviewed paper was published in Annals of Internal Medicine yesterday.
The video below was created earlier this year when initial research results were released.
The objective of the study was simple—to examine human stool samples for the presence of microplastics, which were likely accidentally ingested. According to Reuters, eight volunteers were asked to keep a food diary for a week and then submit a stool sample to the research team. The volunteers were from Japan, Russia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, Finland, and Austria. Diary entries showed six of the eight volunteers consumed fish, none were vegetarians, and all eight subjects were exposed to plastic through food wrappers or bottles.
Of the eight samples examined, all of them tested positive with a median of 20 microplastics in each 10-gram sample. Nine different types of plastic were identified. The two most common type of plastic identified in the samples were polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate, which are two of the most common types of plastic used worldwide.
The research team acknowledges their small sample size, with only eight participants each contributing one stool sample. In the peer-review publication, the team states: “Larger studies are needed to validate these findings. Moreover, research on the origins of microplastics ingested by human, potential intestinal absorption, and effects on human health is urgently needed.”