We Are Killing Our Beautiful Planet With Plastic - On Land, In The Ocean, In Food - And Now In Us. - Hope 103.2

We Are Killing Our Beautiful Planet With Plastic – On Land, In The Ocean, In Food – And Now In Us.

For the first time, scientists are reporting evidence that people around the world are ingesting microplastics. Will it be enough to shock us into action? Boomerang Alliance Deputy Director, Jane Paramor talks to Stephen O'Doherty about the world's rubbish crisis.

By Anne RinaudoThursday 1 Nov 2018Open House InterviewsFinance and BusinessReading Time: 3 minutes

Listen: Jayne Paramor in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty. 

New findings have discovered microplastic in humans for the first time. Research presented last week in Vienna reveals Microplastics have been found in the human food chain. 

Global results

Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria monitored a group of participants from countries across the world, including Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the UK and Austria. The results show that every single stool sample tested positive for the presence of microplastic and up to nine different plastic types were identified.


Microplastics are small particles of plastic less than 5mm and are used in various products for specific purposes; as well as being created unintentionally by the breaking down of larger pieces of plastic through weathering, degradation, wear and tear.

Eating 11,000 particles a year

Boomerang Alliance deputy director, Jayne Paramor, told Open House we don’t yet understand the full impact of microplastics on marine ecosystems. Nor do we know the potential for longer-term risks to human health.  However, she says there is an emerging body of science demonstrating that the chemicals that accumulate in these plastics enter our food chain. It is estimated that people who consume average amounts of seafood are ingesting approximately 11,000 particles of plastic every year.

Tortoise surrounded by rubbish near an Indian beach

Health impact

Microplastic may impact human health via the GI tract where it could affect the tolerance and immune response of the gut by bio-accumulation or aiding transmission of toxic chemicals and pathogens. Lead researcher Dr. Philipp Schwabl presented the findings at the 26th United European Gastroenterology Week.

Confirms suspicions

“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. While the highest  plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the bloodstream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver.” he says.

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

This river in the Philippines is covered in plastic waste.

Plastic is everywhere

Humans generate more than 300 million tons of plastic annually — an amount equal to the combined body weight of the entire global adult human population — and nearly half of the plastic is only used one time before it is tossed away to eventually find its way to the oceans. By 2050, it is a virtual certainty that every seabird on the planet will have plastic in its stomach. The photo above of the river in the Philippines, choked with plastics and other rubbish, is a typical example of the pollution in many developing countries.

Trash Tube photo

The photo taken by Zak Noyle of surfer Dede Suryana riding a rubbish-filled wave in Indonesia has been a viral sensation since he took the shot in 2012. It appeared on the zaknoyle Instagram page and has appeared on Facebook and in publications including the National Geographic.

To listen to the podcast of this conversation click the red play button at the top of the page, or you can subscribe to Open House podcasts in iTunes and they will appear in your feed.