Plastic just gets everywhere, doesn’t it?
It sneaks into your fridges, coffee cups, and the cupboard under the stairs (seriously, do plastic bags reproduce in the dark or something?). Then, eventually, plastic will get into the ocean, then into fish and other sea life, and from there it gets into our food chain.
Which only leads to one place.
Your poo. I’m talking about your poo.
For a study — the results of which were released on Monday — scientists examined the faeces of eight people across the UK, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and Austria. And they found up to nine types of microplastics out of the 10 varieties they tested for, according to the Guardian.
What’s more, every single person tested had plastic in their poop.
A Europe-wide study testing people's poo for plastics. How many participants tested positive?— Friends of the Earth (@foeeurope) October 23, 2018
Every. Single. One. https://t.co/bjgYzdXxjd
All eyes on the European Parliament tomorrow - will our MEPs vote for strong measures to end the plastic crisis? #RethinkPlasticpic.twitter.com/kiehJ0E1Dd
Microplastics are pretty tiny: One particle is defined as less than 5 millimeters. But they can have a massive impact — creeping into every nook and cranny from the ocean to your toilet.
For every 10 grams of poo, the scientists discovered 20 particles of microplastic. The most common plastics found were polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate, though the sources of the plastic were unknown. Every subject kept a food diary, revealing contact with plastic bottles and food wrapped in the stuff.
“More than 50% of the world population might have microplastics in their stools,” said the study’s authors — while acknowledging that more evidence still needed to be collected from more people.
“This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut,” said Philipp Schwabl, a researcher from the Medical University of Vienna, who led the study.
“The smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, and may even reach the liver,” he said. “Now that we have the first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.”
Britain banned microbeads — a particular form of microplastics often found in cosmetics and shampoos — in January. It came after the hugely successful introduction of the 5p plastic bag charge in 2015 — which has now resulted in 9 billion fewer plastic bags in circulation. Now, the UK may very well ban plastic straws, cotton buds, and drink stirrers as early as October 2019, according to an announcement from environment secretary Michael Gove on Monday.
Globally, it’s estimated that there are over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the oceans and, every year, around a million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating plastic, or getting tangled in it. Without intervention, there will be an additional 2 billion tonnes of plastic in the world by 2050 — the equivalent size of a car for every single human being.
And the study shows that microplastics are the bits most likely to actually get into your body.
“I’m not at all surprised or particularly worried by these findings,” said Alistair Boxall from the University of York. “Microplastics have been found in tap water, bottled water, fish and mussel tissue, and even in beer.”
"We will also be exposed to particles from house dust, food packaging materials, and the use of plastic bottles,” he told the Independent. “It's therefore inevitable that at least some of these things will get into our lungs and digestive systems."
Scientists say plastic particles are making their way up the food chain - and have been found in human faeces. @kvittozzi explains the significance of the study.— Sky Ocean Rescue (@SkyOceanRescue) October 23, 2018
Read more on this #OceanRescue story here and #PassOnPlastic: https://t.co/B3HeuwS73Ipic.twitter.com/1XeqYxAvwf