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Environment

Plastic Has Now Been Found in Human Poo — From Every Single Person Studied

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Plastic pollution has become a huge issue in terms of the damage that it’s causing to the natural world. The UN’s Global Goals call for action in protecting life on land and life below water, as well as action to drive responsible consumption and production. Join us by taking action here to combat plastic waste.

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.

Take Action: Commit to Reduce Your Plastic Waste and #UnplasticThePlanet

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.

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.”

Related Stories Oct. 22, 2018 Plastic Straws and Cotton Buds Could Be Banned in Britain by Next Year April 9, 2018 The Average Person Eats 70,000 Microplastics Each Year Jan. 9, 2018 The Long-Awaited Ban on Plastic Microbeads in the UK Is Finally Here

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."