"This ingestion has been happening for many decades - it's now proven and it's alarming."
It takes more than a thousand years for plastic to degrade, so in the meantime, it just breaks down into to trillions of smaller pieces, called microplastics. They’re less than 5 millimetres long, which is about the size of a grain of rice. Most are bigger pieces that have broken up over time. But there’s also microbeads from cosmetics and polyester fibres from our clothes.
And now a team from the University of Vienna say they’ve found evidence that plastic is getting into our guts.
Researchers studied stool samples from 8 people from 8 countries. Every single sample contained microplastics - in some cases, there were 9 different types of plastics in a single specimen. On average, it worked out to be 20 particles per 10g of waste.
Studies have shown that microplastics are in 83% of tap water worldwide, all German beers and some of the seafood we eat. But this new evidence suggests we could be ingesting them from a whole heap of other sources we hadn’t necessarily thought of, with a whole heap of health effects we don't yet understand.
So given how much plastic is already out there and in us, maybe we time we treated microplastics as a much larger problem?
Oliver Jones tells Michael Hing and Jan Fran whether we should panic about microplastics.