At a rate that is best described as alarming, new studies have joined a growing pool of evidence of the toxic effects of plastic.
The latest to join these findings is, therefore, what seems the natural next step — microplastics in our excreta.
The new research, from the Medical University of Vienna and Environment Agency of Austria, recruited eight volunteers from different parts of Europe and Asia.
The volunteers were told to record the food they ate over seven days, and submit a stool sample to test at the end of the week. The test allowed the researchers to look for as many as eleven different types of plastics, a Eurekalert report said.
The tests revealed nine different types of plastic in the collected samples. And while the study could explain with certainty where the plastic came from, the volunteers had reported eating food wrapped in plastic, drinking from plastic bottles, and a few also enjoyed some seafood.
“This is the first study of its kind confirming what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut,” Dr Philipp Schwabl, lead author from the Medical University of Vienna, was quoted to have said in the report.
However, there isn’t yet solid evidence that this is cause for panic, because the effects of these particles on animals is still nascent, and inconclusive.
Moreover, the study has sampled a small population of 8 people, which is insufficient to draw any significant data or trend from. The data is yet to be reviewed in the form of a detailed research study by other academics, and was instead presented at the United European Gastroenterology conference.
Some experts have attributed the samples containing plastic to contamination at the hands of the researchers. “Poor quality observations of contamination do not represent the scientific method well… do not help us understand impacts (of microplastics) on humans or manage them,” Mark Browne, a microplastics expert from the University of New South Wales told the Associated Press.
The research group is currently working on refining their testing methods and preparing a more sensitive test for a larger, pilot study.