Plastic in people may be wake-up call we need
Finding can lead to change
New research showing evidence of microplastics in human stools may be the shock we need to ensure humans, change their ways drastically, Zwartkops Conservancy spokesperson Jenny Rump said on Tuesday.
According to research from the Austrian Environment Agency and the University of Vienna, which analysed the stool samples of people from eight different countries, microplastics have now moved to the very top of the food chain.
Though taken from a small sample size, the study published last week provides evidence of microplastics detected in humans for the first time.
Every single sample examined contained microplastic; in some cases, nine different types of plastic were found in just one sample.
On average, the researchers discovered 20 microplastic particles per 10g of human waste.
Rump said she hoped the report would mark a turning point for the better.
“This is horrific reading. I suspected this was so and now at least there is scientific proof that microplastics are entering the human body,” she said.
“Work has already been done on the issue at NMU [Nelson Mandela University] by Dr Nadine Strydom.
“My understanding is that fish are not as healthy as before, that fish fertility is declining and fish abnormalities are increasing because microplastics are being ingested by fish.
“This new finding is perhaps the shock we need to ensure that we humans change our ways drastically.”
There was so much that could be done to tackle the problem, Rump said.
“Simple actions like not littering, not using plastic bags and not accepting take-away packaging that is not recyclable will make a big difference.
“Our lives depend on changing our behaviour and the future of the planet does too.”
Presenting the findings at the annual United European Gastroenterology meeting last week, Dr Philipp Schwabl said: “This is the first study of its and confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut.”
The presence of microplastics in our bodies has long been regarded by experts as inevitable – previous studies have calculated Europeans could be ingesting as many as 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic a year.
But what these tiny particles, by definition less than 5mm in size, are actually doing to our bodies remains worryingly undocumented.
The fear is that their invasion into every aspect of our environment could cause a raft of hitherto uninvestigated health and fertility problems.
In short, as well as choking the environment around us, our addiction to plastic may prove our eventual undoing.
While evidence for any effect on the human population remains scarce, experts fear the presence of microplastics in the body may damage the immune system, trigger inflammation, and help carry toxins such as mercury or pesticides.
Sadly, it is not as simple as making lifestyle changes like cutting fish from our diets, ditching cotton or switching from tap to bottled water, as microplastics have permeated every aspect of modern life.
In sea mammals such as whales, it is believed plastics are damaging fertility.
Microplastics have also been shown to reduce the fertility of other marine animals.
“Absolutely, it is worrying,” Professor Jamie Woodward, from Manchester University’s department of geography, said.
Earlier in 2018, Woodward led a study on the prevalence of microplastics in rivers flowing into the city of Manchester in northwest England.
“Plastics are everywhere and all-pervasive. Some biologists have suggested they could make their way into the bloodstream and move around the body and also be a vector for transporting contaminants and other pollutants,” he said.
“We still need basic research on what the impacts will be.”
The human gut is, of course, only the latest repository of microplastics to be confirmed.
Globally, an estimated 8.3billion tons of plastic has been created since mass production began in the 1950s, 80%of which has accumulated in landfills or the natural environment, where it will take more than 1,000 years to degrade.
Trillions of microplastics have already shown up in the oceans, fish, tap and bottled water and even table salt – scientists recently tested 39 different salt brands from 16 countries and found 90% contained microplastics.- Additional reporting The Telegraph