100% of people in pilot study had microplastic 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.
With his collected letters recently being published, it's time to revisit this extraordinary thinker.
- Though the British philosopher died in 1973, his work continues to make an impact.
- A recently published collection, The Collected Letters Alan Watts, is a deep dive into his personal correspondences.
- Watts was an early proponent for spreading Eastern philosophy to Western culture.
A little goes a long way.
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- Small breaks from work add up, causing experts to recommend short doses of movement rather than waiting to do longer workouts.
- Rethinking what exercise is can help you frame how you move throughout your day.
A new AI-produced commercial from Lexus shows how AI might be particularly suited for the advertising industry.
- The commercial was written by IBM's Watson. It was acted and directed by humans.
- Lexus says humans played a minimal part in influencing Watson, in terms of the writing.
- Advertising, with its clearly defined goals and troves of data, seems like one creative field in which AI would prove particularly useful.
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- The shares of major tech companies were performing exceptionally well earlier this year, but those gains got nearly erased on Monday.
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- Apple and Facebook have been hit the hardest in recent weeks, thanks in part to a few major reports from news outlets.
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