TOXIC microplastics are polluting people’s bodies, research has revealed.
Volunteers from eight countries, including Britain, all had the potentially dangerous particles in their systems, tests showed.
The plastic can be ingested by eating fish that have been exposed to waste in the sea, while other risks include drinking beer or tap water and using cosmetics. It is able to enter the bloodstream, transmitting ‘toxic chemicals and pathogens’, warned Medical University of Vienna experts.
Dr Philipp Schwabl, who led the research, said: ‘This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected — plastics ultimately reach the human gut.
‘While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest particles are capable of entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system and may even reach the liver.Now that we have the first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.’
The findings are based on analysis of the stools of the eight volunteers, from Britain, Austria, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland and Russia.
They had kept food diaries which showed they had all eaten products from plastic packaging or drunk from plastic bottles. Six of them had eaten fish. Nine types of plastic were found and there were on average 20 particles per 10g of stool, reveals the study presented at United European Gastroenterology Week in Vienna yesterday. Dr Schwabl admitted: ‘Personally, I did not expect each sample would be tested positive.’
Although it is the first hard evidence that plastic enters the body, previous research has suggested it can be ingested through food, drink, cosmetics and even by breathing in city air.
Dr Stephanie Wright, a King’s College London research fellow, said more work was needed to show whether it built up inside the body or just passed through.Alistair Boxall, environmental science professor at the University of York, said: ‘It is really hard to conclude whether there is a risk to health or not.’
But Louise Edge, of Greenpeace UK, said: ‘This shows just how dramatically plastic contaminates every aspect of our lives.’ She called for urgent action by the world’s governments.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was tackling the problem through measures such as its world-leading ban on plastic microbeads in products such as toothpaste.