Featured image for FYI, There's Plastic In Your Poop

FYI, There's Plastic In Your Poop

by Rudy Sanchez on 11/02/2018 | 2 Minute Read

Scientists are finding microplastics everywhere.

They're in the ocean, in the soil, and in fish and other wildlife. But until now, it was suspected that humans were consuming microplastics. Well, researchers in Austria have now found microplastics in poop, the first step in studying the impact of ingesting plastic on people.

The small study consisting of eight subjects found particles of plastic ranging in size from 50 micrometers to 5 millimeters. The types of plastics found were polypropylene (used to make bottle caps), polyethylene terephthalate (used to make beverage bottles) and polystyrene (commonly found in food containers).

Finding microplastics in people is difficult: the team in Austria spent weeks developing a method for breaking down organic material in human stool without affecting plastics.

Editorial photograph

This study is the first step in understanding the impact plastics have in the human gut, and opens the door for more research. While it’s unknown just how ingesting plastics affect the human body, some studies suggest ingested plastics have a negative impact on marine life. Additionally, it’s possible that microplastics can accumulate toxins. Marine life cannot differentiate between their food and microplastics, so it only stands to reason that your local seafood platter might come with a side of polypropylene.

"I believe that trying to reduce plastic usage and plastic-packed food might be beneficial for nature and for us," said research co-author Dr. Philipp Schwabl, a gastroenterologist at the Medical University of Austria.

"Certainly, plastic is a very useful material and has a lot of clever applications," he added. "But maybe we should try to rethink the necessity of abundant plastic use, and search for and support ecological and sustainable alternatives.”