Plastic has become a major concern for the environment, what with enormous plastic patches floating in the ocean. But the problem is far closer to home than previously thought. According to two recently published studies, microplastics have entered the human food chain in such quantities that they can now be found in table salt, and can be even detected in stool.
Microplastics are plastic pieces that are smaller than 5 millimetres across. Some of them are created by manufacturers for use in industrial processes but most microplastics disintegrate from bigger pieces. These pieces are small enough to float through the air and enter our lungs and can even pass through the membranes of intestines.
According to the Medical University of Vienna in Austria and the Environment Agency, microplastics have infiltrated into the human body. The scientists investigated stool samples from eight people from a range of geographical locations and found that there were 10 types of plastics present in the food they ate.
Dr Philip Schwabl, the lead researcher of the study, said in a press release:
“This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut…Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases.”
Another study that appeared in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, measured the presence of plastic in table salt, however, it could not ascertain where in the world the salt originated.
Microplastics can have adverse health effects. A 2017 study explored the metabolic effects of feeding mice microplastics. The scientists found that they built up in the liver, kidney, and gut and can cause disruptions to energy and lipid metabolism, induce oxidative stress, and include neurotoxic responses.
Worried? You should be.