All of study's participants had microplastics in their stools
The study was small: 8 people from 8 different countries. But the findings have alarmed scientists.
- All subjects selected for a pilot program had microplastics in their stools.
- The types of microplastics found implicate both food and non-food sources.
- Boutique water may be healthier, but its bottles not so much.
It was just a small study from a team of researchers led by gastroenterologist Philipp Schwabl of the Medical University of Vienna, but all eight people selected as subjects in the warm-up experiment for further research were found to have microplastics in their stools. Schwabl tells The New York Times, "This is the first study of its kind, so we did a pilot trial to see if there are any microplastics detectable at all. The results were astonishing." Making this even more surprising is that subjects were from a range of places: Austria, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and the UK.
Scientists have been concerned for some time about plastics making their way into our bodies from various sources, and this small study is the first to find significant amounts of the stuff. "Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases," Schwabl tells CNN. "While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver."
The findings were presented at a gastroenterology gathering in Vienna.
Microplastics are bits of plastic smaller than five millimeters. In the participants, the pieces ranged in size from 50 to 500 micrometers. On average, subjects were carrying 20 particles of microplastic per 10 grams of stool. There were bits of polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in everyone. The researchers tested the stools for 11 different kinds of microplastics, finding as many as 9 in a subject.
Subjects came from eight countries
Where are the microplastics coming from?
We've written previously about research that points to seafood from plastic-polluted oceans as a potential source of microplastics in humans, though in this study, only six of the eight participants had eaten seafood. What they all had in common, however, was that all eight had eaten plastic-packaged food and they'd each consumed an average of 750 milliliters of water from plastic bottles during the week—they subjects kept food diaries, as required for the trial. PP and PET come from plastic bottles and caps.
A red flag
Since this research involved such a small sample—it wasn't even really intended as a full study, after all—it serves primarily as a warning that more investigation is needed. There are a number of questions the study raises but doesn't answer. Do microplastics remain in the body, or do they just pass through? Are these microplastics from plastic bottles, food, or somewhere else, such as the household environment in which they may be found in dust, or coming from sources such as nylon fibers in our dryers? But with an estimated 150 million tons of plastic floating around our oceans alone—and uncounted particles everywhere else—clearly we need to know much more about the travels of these chemical bits and their effect on living organisms like us.
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
BASE particle physicists have discovered a very precise way to examine antimatter.
Thank your lucky stars you’re alive. It’s truly a miracle of nature. This has nothing to do with spirituality or religion and everything to do with science. Life itself may not be the miracle. Although we haven’t found it elsewhere yet, our galaxy alone is so replete with Earth-like planets that, mathematically speaking, one of them must hold life, even if it’s just the microbial variety. Intelligent life may be another matter.
Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.
I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.
A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.
- A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
- The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
- The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Mathematicians studied 100 billion tweets to help computer algorithms better understand our colloquial digital communication.