Human bodies are being contaminated with plastic, scientists have confirmed for the first time.
Small pieces were found in samples of each participant in an experiment that tried to calculate how much plastic we eat and drink each day.
So far, most research has focused on the natural world, but the new study shows that humans also consume plastic, with some parts potentially housed in our bodies.
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Sources could include eating fish or drinking water from plastic bottles
The researchers talked last night of their surprise to find so many particles in human samples. They suggested that sources could include eating fish or drinking water from plastic bottles.
Plastic is in everything from beer to table salt.
It has become virtually impossible to escape from eating plastic, but its implications for health are largely unknown.
Microplastics have been found in all forms of marine life, in table salt, honey, sugar, beer, organic fertilizers, in the dust of our homes and in samples of bottled water and tap water.
It has been found that the chemicals used in the production of plastic interfere with the development of the sexual organs in animals and fish.
It is feared that plastics can also supply toxic chemicals, such as poisonous metals or hormones that interfere with normal sexual development, directly in our bodies.
Dr. Stephanie Wright, a researcher at King & # 39; s College London, said: "There is no published evidence indicating what the health effects might be.
"It is likely that the larger particles are going through.
"The smallest particles could potentially cross the intestinal wall and redistribute to target tissues."
The activists said that the scale of the plastic crisis meant that it was "impossible" for people to avoid eating, drinking and inhaling plastic, with potentially harmful effects. These include the risk of bacterial infections, the introduction of harmful chemicals into the body, irritation of the intestinal lining and immune responses.
The principal investigator, Dr. Philipp Schwabl, said: "This is the first study of this type and confirms what we suspected for a long time: that plastics eventually reach the human intestine." Of particular concern is what this means for us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases.
The smallest microplastic particles are able to enter the bloodstream and the lymphatic system and can even reach the liver.
"Now that we have the first evidence of microplastics within humans, we need more research to understand what this means for human health."
Hundreds of pieces of microplastics were found in all stool samples taken from people who participated in the study at the Medical University of Vienna.
Researchers from the University and the Environment Agency of Austria supervised participants from the United Kingdom, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Austria. The results showed that each sample tested positive for the presence of microplastics, with up to nine different types identified. The most common plastics were polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Both are commonly found in food and beverage containers.
The research was a pilot study with eight participants. Each kept a food diary for a week before their samples were analyzed in the laboratory.
It is estimated that around 2 to 5 percent of all plastic produced ends up in the sea.
The research was a pilot study with eight participants. Each kept a food diary for a week.
The newspapers showed that all the participants had eaten food wrapped in plastic or drunk from plastic bottles. None of the participants were vegetarian and six of them ate sea fish.
The microplastics found were between 50 and 500 micrometers in size. A human hair has a thickness between 17 and 181 micrometers.
The Daily Mail is leading the calls to face the plastic pollution crisis, with campaigns that have stopped the use of small micro-plastic beads in cosmetics and have resulted in the introduction of a tax on plastic bags.
It is estimated that around 2 to 5 percent of all plastic produced ends up in the sea, where it is consumed by fish and other marine creatures. Important quantities of microplastics have been detected in tuna, lobster, shrimp and mussels.
An investigation by Mail this year found that small plastic particles have become "part of the air we breathe."
A laboratory study found particles in the air in each fish sample from eight major supermarkets after being left in open-air counters.
It had been thought that the health risk was largely limited to eating fish from oceans contaminated with plastic, but the study showed that microplastics are also in the air.
Dr. Schwabl said: "Plastics are widespread in everyday life and humans are exposed to plastics in many ways"
Researchers behind the new study say: "It is very likely that during several steps of food processing or as a result of packaging, food will be contaminated with plastics."
Synthetic fabrics are also an important source of microplastics in the environment, since the fibers of our clothes end up in the sea from treated and untreated wastewater that is released into rivers.
Dr. Schwabl said: "Plastics are widespread in everyday life and humans are exposed to plastics in many ways, I did not expect each sample to be positive, but we must be aware of the small sample size of our study ".
He added: "Worldwide, plastic production and plastic pollution correlate very strongly, so it is likely that the amount of plastic pollution will increase even more if humanity does not change the current situation."
Friends of the Earth policy chief Mike Childs said: "This is more disturbing evidence of how ubiquitous plastics are in our environment.
"Now it seems impossible for people to avoid ingesting or inhaling plastic pollution, although programs like Blue Planet have vividly shown the devastating impact of plastic on wildlife, we still do not know what effect it has on human health."
Louise Edge, Greenpeace's oceans advocate in the UK, added: "This is another amazing development that shows how dramatically plastic is contaminating every aspect of our lives.
"The global problem of plastic is totally out of control, we need urgent measures from governments to massively reduce the use of plastic and ensure that everything we use, which must be essential, is captured and recycled properly."
Alistair Boxall, professor of environmental sciences at the University of York, said: "It is a very interesting study and stresses that humans are being exposed to microplastics in our daily lives."
WHAT ARE MICROPLASTICS AND HOW DO THEY ENTER OUR WATERWAYS?
Microplastics are plastic particles that measure less than five millimeters (0.2 inches).
They have made headlines in recent years, as inadequate disposal has resulted in tons of waste reaching the ocean.
Every year, tons of plastic waste are not recycled or treated properly, which may mean they end up in marine ecosystems.
Although it is not clear exactly how they end up in the water, microplastics can enter through the simple use and daily wear of clothing and carpets.
Dryers can also be a source, especially if they have outdoor ventilation.
Plastics do not decompose for thousands of years and it is estimated that there are already millions of articles of plastic waste in the oceans. This number is expected to increase.
Studies have also revealed that 700,000 plastic fibers could be released into the atmosphere with each washing cycle.
Current water systems can not effectively filter all microplastic contamination, due to the variable size of the particles.
The amount of plastic trash in the world's oceans will surpass fish by 2050 unless the world takes drastic measures to recycle more, a report published in 2016 revealed.
More than 80 percent of the world's tap water is contaminated with plastic, according to research published in September 2017.
The United States has the highest pollution rate with 93%, followed by Lebanon and India, according to experts at the University of Minnesota.
France, Germany and the United Kingdom have the lowest levels, however, still reach 72%.
Overall, 83 percent of water samples from dozens of countries around the world contain microplastics.
Scientists warn that microplastics are so small that they could penetrate the organs.
Bottled water may not be a safer alternative, since scientists have found contaminated samples.
It has been found that creatures of all shapes and sizes have consumed plastics, either directly or indirectly.
Previous research has also revealed that microplastics absorb toxic chemicals, which are then released into the intestines of animals.