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Microplastic found in humans for the first time

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

Microplastic particles in a glass with a plastic bottle next to it.
Microplastic particles were detected in human stool for the first time. © Shutterstock/MikeDotta

For the first time, the Austrian Federal Environmental Agency and the Medical University of Vienna have proven that microplastics also occur in the human digestive system. Its staff examined stool samples from eight people from various European countries and Japan. They found microplastic in all eight samples, an average of 20 particles per 10 grams of stool. “In our laboratory, we were able to detect nine different types of plastic in sizes ranging from 50 to 500 micrometers,” explained Bettina Liebmann, the expert at the Federal Environment Agency responsible for microplastic analyses. PP (polypropylene) and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) were most frequently found in the samples.

Unknown effects on human organism

Due to the small number of participants, the scientists were unable to establish any connections between dietary behaviour and exposure to microplastics. According to the dietary diaries kept by the test persons, all participants had consumed food or beverages packaged in plastic or made from PET bottles and the majority ate fish or seafood. The study also left open the effects of the found microplastic particles on the human organism, in particular on the digestive tract. Although there are “first signs that microplastics can damage the gastrointestinal tract by promoting inflammatory reactions or absorbing harmful accompanying substances,” said Philipp Schwabl of MedUni Vienna. However, further studies are necessary to assess the potential dangers of microplastics for humans.

 

© Shutterstock/Rich-Carey

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EU vote against disposable plastic products

In the fight against plastic waste, the EU Parliament has approved a proposal by the EU Commission to ban certain disposable plastic products such as drinking straws. The portal Euractiv writes that the MEPs have even tightened up individual requirements. However, it also quotes environmental experts who consider these measures inadequate. According to Euractiv, the EU member states want to agree on a joint statement on the Commission's draft before the end of this year, so that an agreement could be reached before the EU elections in May.


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