Microplastics have been found in samples of human faeces by scientists for the first time, who say the discovery means humans are unwittingly digesting it.
The scientists – from the Federal Environment Agency and the Medical University of Vienna – studied the bowel habits of eight people aged 33-65 from the United Kingdom, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Japan and Austria.
They found plastic in every single stool sample, detecting an average of 20 microplastics particles per 10 grams of stool. All participants consumed plastic-packed food or drinks and the majority consumed fish. None were vegetarian.
“In our laboratory, we were able to detect nine different types of plastics ranging in size from 50 to 500 micrometres,” said Bettina Liebmann from the Federal Environment Agency.
It is estimated that two to five per cent of plastic produced ends up in the sea, where the waste is crushed and absorbed by marine animals and can reach humans via the food chain, the study said.
Because of the small size of the study, the researchers said that the effects of the microplastic particles and their “potential danger” for humans could “only be investigated in the context of a larger study”.
But researchers pointed to past studies that found microplastics not only in the digestive systems of animals, but in their blood, lymph and liver.
Last week a separate study found microplastics in samples of table salt.
Scientists tested 39 different salt brands from 16 countries and found that the majority (90 per cent) contained microplastics.