Microplastics have previously been found in fish and other marine life, tap water, and even in flying insects. But just because you don’t drink straight from the ocean or think that as the ruling species, you’re impervious to pollution, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t gotten into your system either.
Scientists have found microplastics in human stools for the first time. The Environment Agency Austria conducted tests on samples from eight participants from Europe, Japan, and Russia, and microplastic particles were found in all of them. The study also goes on to estimate that around 50% of the world’s population may have microplastics in their system. Polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate, which are used in plastic bottles and caps, were the synthetic materials most commonly found in the stool samples.
Finally, proof to properly freak people out about the very real plastic pollution that is plaguing the planet. But at least I’m pooping it all out, you say? Well, brace yourselves.
“The smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, and may even reach the liver,” said Medical University of Vienna’s Philipp Schwabl, one of the researchers in the study. “Now that we have the first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.”
The bad news is, with plastic all around us, it’s difficult to eliminate your unintentional intake of microplastics. If it’s in the water you drink, it’s likely that it gets into a lot of food you eat as well. There is some global reaction to plastic pollution, but it’s currently a slow battle. Governments and institutions everywhere have started banning forms of single-use plastics (like straws and plastic bags) and upped the regulations concerning environmental pollution, but it’s not just up to the authorities. The effort to clean up the ocean, to minimise single-use plastics, to recycle, is also on you. Say no to straws. Don’t throw contact lenses into the toilet bowl. Bring your own Tupperware and metal cutlery when packing lunch. Shop with reusable tote bags.
Every small effort counts.