Austrian scientists have found in a pilot project for the first time, micro-plastic in the human chair. Whether these particles can affect the metabolism of people, or even trigger diseases, is not clear. Christiane Zarfl, Junior Professor for environmental system analysis at the University of Tübingen, files the new findings.
the WORLD: Since when did you know that micro-plastic in the environment a Problem?
Christiane Zarfl: The topic came up at the beginning of the 2000s. Since it has been observed first of all that micro-plastics on beaches in the Sand. That you but with all the effects apart, began with the marine strategy framework Directive in 2008. In the meantime, there are a relatively large number of individual studies, however, mainly to aquatic organisms, so living thing out of the water. That also conducts research on terrestrial organisms, only starts now.
the WORLD: And why it is only now starting to deal with the possible consequences for the people?
Zarfl: it had to develop in the research for the first time. It has focused initially on the marine area, because they found micro-plastic there for the first Time in large quantities. Then, it has been found that it is not only in the sea, but also in flowing waters. And then, that it is in the food that the person takes to himself – for example, in fish. Since the question was of course: Lands of this plastic in the people? And that was the trigger to look, what effects it might have. You don’t know, but, unfortunately, still a lot.
the WORLD: Now, researchers have found, for the first time, micro-plastic in the human chair. We need to be Worried?
Zarfl: This is an interesting observation that you should pursue. What is once in the environment, comes back to us. But one should not overstate the results, and in hysteria expire. You don’t know at all what that means for human health.
the WORLD: How can that be? Why it takes so long?
Zarfl: There is a wide range of various plastics. And, in addition, the individual particles have very different shapes and sizes. It explores, therefore, not a molecule, but many. That makes it hard. At the Moment, science is working to develop Standards and define what micro-plastic is exactly. So far, there is not even a Definition for the size of the particles. Many people say that micro-plastic is all that is up to five millimeters in size. But consensus is not yet.
the WORLD: Has been found in previous studies of other information on plastic in the human body?
Zarfl: There are studies that show that pollutants occur in the body, which can come from plastics, for example, plasticizers and Bisphenol A, abbreviated to BPA. But these substances are not only found in plastic. How plastic is the reason that BPA is found in human blood, is not quite sure.
the WORLD: Could it be that the micro-plastic, the seem to have people at least in the intestine, harmful substances such as BPA are increasingly into the blood?
Zarfl: could be, Yes. But it could also be the other way around.
the WORLD: How?
Zarfl: There are first studies that want to find out, whether already existing body in the pollutants bind to the plastic, and then together with the plastic particles are excreted.
the WORLD: It also Attempts were made with lugworms and mussels, the micro-plastic. The cotton worms have excreted the ingested plastic, the shells have developed inflammation of the. Which scenario is more likely?
Zarfl: This is not yet clear. These contradictory results in mussels and Lugworms have raised, of course, all sorts of questions. Depending on the organism, micro-plastic seems to have quite different effects. If micro-plastic can injure the inner organs of humans or, possibly, through the stomach wall into the blood might be excreted, there are no findings. These are so far only hypotheses we need to check.
WORLD: which way is that plastic actually comes in the body?
Zarfl: people take it, probably mainly through the food chain. Whether the consumption of fish contributes in fact, micro-plastic in the human body, is not sure yet. When we eat clams, may be but in any case. In the case of mussels, micro-plastic has been demonstrated in whole muscle tissue, in fish, previously only available in the stomach. Then there are micro-plastic in the air we breathe. In the tap water in Germany, micro-plastic has not been demonstrated comprehensively.
the WORLD: What you can do if you want to shoot for safety’s sake, no micro-plastic?
Zarfl: Any plastic packaging could also play a role. Who cares, could so drinking of more water from glass bottles than from plastic bottles. Like a lot of micro-plastic that dissolves in fact, made of PET-bottles, don’t know you but.
the WORLD: let’s assume that in the studies discovered that the microplastic is hurting us. Then it’s all good?
Zarfl: I wouldn’t say That. It is a social question would remain how we deal with our waste. This is also an ethical question. Because aside from the micro plastic is now clear that plastic can cause harm to the environment. The long shelf life of plastic is its biggest advantage and its biggest disadvantage. The impact in the future are still unclear. Not only for the environment, but also the long-term consequences for people.