researchers have found evidence that microplastics accumulate in human feces. defined by their size – less than .02 inches long – these extremely small pieces of plastic beads, fibers, or fragments, were discovered in the human stool samples of eight participants from all over the world, including italy, japan, poland, the netherlands, russia, the united kingdom, finland, and austria. earlier this year designboom reported that 90% of plastic bottles of water contain microplastics, a fact deduced from a study that found concentrations of up to 10,000 plastic pieces in every litre of water tested. now this new discovery, scientists are suggesting that as well as infiltrating our oceans microplastics may be widespread within the human food chain too.


scientists from the environment agency austria and the medical university of vienna analyzed the samples as part of a study that recorded what participants ate in the week prior to their stool sampling. most participants drank liquids from plastic bottles, but also ate fish and seafood. when tested, up to nine different kinds of plastics were detected, ranging in size from .002 to .02 inches. polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate were the plastics most commonly found — both major components of plastic bottles and caps.

scientists have discovered hundreds of microplastics in human poo

polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate are major components of plastic bottles and caps



the new paper, which was presented monday at a gastroenterology conference in vienna, could provide support for marine biologists who have long warned of the dangers posed by microplastics in our oceans. it is not news that researchers have long suspected microplastics could be present in the human food chain as a result. one study estimates that people who eat shellfish may be consuming as much as 11,000 plastic pieces per year because of their ingestion of microplastics in the ocean. the study also acknowledges the likeliness that food is being contaminated with plastics during food processing or possibly, as a result of packaging.


based on this study, the authors estimate that ‘more than 50% of the world population might have microplastics in their stools‘. they did however stress that larger-scale studies would be needed to confirm this. ‘the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, and may even reach the liver,’ said philipp schwabl, a researcher at the medical university of vienna who led the study. ‘now that we have the first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.’