Microplastics and their journey towards your gut
By admin October 25, 2018

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The statistics are alarming: within the next minute, one million plastic bottles and two million plastic bags will be purchased. By the end of this year, enough bubble wrap will be produced to encircle the equator at least ten times.

Although most of these items will take over 1,000 years to decompose, many will immediately begin breaking down into smaller pieces known as microplastics; trillions of which have appeared in the oceans, tap water, and even table salt. Microplastics are defined as pieces of plastic less than 0.2 inches long and are roughly the size of a grain of rice. They have become a major concern for environmental researchers over the past decade. Most microplastics are the unintended results of breaking apart from larger plastics, and are now have an increased presence in marine life and last year were detected in 83 percent of tap water samples from around the world (the highest rate belonging in the US, where 94 percent of samples were contaminated).

Now, another microplastic repository can be added to the list—the human gut. In a study presented during the United European Gastroenterology week in Vienna, researchers looked for microplastics in the stools of participants from several European and East Asian countries. To their surprise, every sample tested positive for the presence of a variety of microplastics. Up to nine different plastics were detected and the most common plastics found were polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate—both major components of plastic bottles and caps. There are currently no certain implications for their findings, but researchers hope to complete a broader study with the previous methods developed.

Researchers have long suspected that microplastics would make their way into human consumption. People who eat shellfish incur elevated risk of microplastic consumption, consuming as much as 11,000 plastic pieces per year. There are oftentimes many different polymers found within the microplastics, which suggests that there is a wide range of contamination sources. What is of greater concern is whether any associated chemical contaminants accumulate in tissues after passing through the gut. Researchers hope that these findings will serve as a baseline for greater microplastic awareness and hope there will be more studies conducted to identify any potential side effects.


For further reading:

Microplastics have been found in people’s poop- what does it mean?

Microplastics found in human stools for the first time

Microplastics found in human stools, research finds

Thanks for sharing !

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