What is ingesting plastic doing to our insides?

New research has revealed humans are ingesting plastic [Photo: Getty]
New research has revealed humans are ingesting plastic [Photo: Getty]

Scientists have revealed for the first time that humans are ingesting microscopic plastic particles in their food.

Researchers say that people are eating tiny pieces of plastic along with their food – after a test on faeces found plastic in every sample investigated.

People from the UK and seven other countries took part in the study – and up to 20 pieces of plastic were found in every 10g of stool sample.

Though the research did not uncover where each of the plastic particles came from, a food diary kept by all the participants showed they all consumed food and drink wrapped in plastic.

Researchers suggested the plastic could come from the packaging the food is contained in, or the techniques used to process or manufacture it.

But it could also come from plastic consumed by sea life.

Commenting on the findings lead researcher Dr Philipp Schwabi, from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, said: “Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases.

“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.

“Now that we have first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.”

But experts have already raised concerns about the impact ingesting plastic particles could have on our bodies, warning that plastic in the gut could suppress the immune system and aid the transmission of toxins and harmful bugs or viruses.

“The reality of the situation is that there hasn’t been enough scientific research to ascertain whether or not consuming plastic is actually harmful to the human body or not, and if so, what negative effects it has on human health,” advises Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click.

“Animal studies looking at the effects of ingesting plastic have found to have negative impacts on the liver, fertility and hormone function of animals; but this hasn’t been looked at in humans.”

Kanani believes it could be challenging to study the effects that ingesting plastics has on human health, as people cannot be expected to eat plastic for research purposes.

“Plastic also isn’t one thing, it comes in different forms and can contain many different additives such as pigments, softeners, water repellents etc., so it will be quite difficult to pin point whether it’s the plastic, or its additives that is having negative effects on our health,” he adds.

“There are many different factors that need to be looked into from the source of the plastic, to the different types of plastic to its additives etc. However, I’m sure with time, we will have more conclusive evidence, but for now, it’s unclear how plastics affect human health.”

What does ingesting plastic do to our bodies? [Photo: Getty]
What does ingesting plastic do to our bodies? [Photo: Getty]

It’s not the first time that concerns have been raised about the impact plastic could be having on our bodies. Earlier this year experts issued a warning that plastic contamination could soon be “catastrophic” for human health.

Seawater samples collected throughout a 45,000 mile journey on the Volvo Ocean race round-the-world sailing event have revealed traces of microplastics almost everywhere, including in the remotest waters in the Southern Ocean.

And experts aren’t impressed.

Speaking about the findings Dr Luiza Mirpuri, the organisation’s medical adviser, said: “It will be catastrophic, not now but in the third generation because each time we have diseases, new diseases from new contaminants.

“We are having more cancer, more allergic diseases, more infertility. We are less fertile than our grandfathers.”

Dr Mirpuri went on to warn that plastic is slowly “killing the human race”.

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