PARIS: Bits of plastic have been detected in the faeces of people in Europe, Russia and Japan, according to research claiming to show for the first time the widespread presence of plastics in the human food chain. All eight volunteers in a small pilot study were found to have passed several types of plastic, with an average of 20 micro-particles per 10 grams of stool, researchers reported on Tuesday at a gastroenterology congress in Vienna. The scientists speculated that the tiny specks — ranging in size from 50 to 500 micrometres — may been ingested via seafood, food wrapping, dust or plastic bottles.
“In our laboratory, we were able to detect nine different types of plastics,” said Bettina Liebmann, a researcher at the Federal Environment Agency, which analysed the samples. The two most common were polypropylene — found in bottle caps, rope and strapping — and polyethylene, present in drinking bottles and textile fibres. Together with polystyrene (utensils, cups, coolers) and polyethylene (plastic bags), they accounted for more than 95 per cent of the particles detected. “We were unable to establish a reliable connection between nutritional behaviour and exposure to microplastics,” said lead author Philipp Schwabl, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna. — AFP