Microplastics have made their way into human poop

October 23, 2018 by  
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Each year, humans around the world produce about 882 billion pounds of plastic waste, and about 80 percent of it ends up in landfills or in the natural environment. Now, scientists are beginning to study the effects of microplastics on people, and it turns out that they are showing up in human poop after contaminating our food . Microplastics are the smallest particles of plastic waste — so small that most are invisible to the human eye. They are found in most bottled and tap water, soil and sea, rock and lake salts. Related: Study finds 90 percent of table salt contains microplastics A small pilot study being presented this week at the 26th annual United European Gastroenterology conference in Vienna, Austria looked at stool samples from eight people from eight different countries, and every sample tested positive for up to nine different types of plastic . Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environmental Agency Austria conducted the study and found an average of 20 particles of plastic per 10 grams of stool. “Personally, I did not expect that each sample would … [test] … positive,” said Dr. Philipp Schwabl of the Medical University of Vienna and lead researcher of the study. “Is it harmful to human health? That’s a very important question, and we are planning further investigations.” In this first-of-its-kind study, researchers found that all eight samples contained polypropylene and polyethylene-terephthalate particles, which both make up a majority of plastic bottles and plastic bottle caps. According to NPR , each person kept a regular diet and maintained a food diary during the week before the stool samples were collected. Everyone had been exposed to plastics via beverages in plastic bottles and foods wrapped in plastic. No participants were vegetarian , and six of the eight had consumed wild fish. Schwabl said the concern is whether or not microplastics are entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system and possibly the liver. In studies of animals, microplastics have caused intestinal damage and liver stress. Now that this initial study has shown we are ingesting microplastics, two questions remain: what is staying in our bodies rather than leaving as waste, and what impact will the microplastics have on our health ? Schwabl said that he and his colleagues are applying for funding for a larger study, so they can attempt to replicate their findings. Via  NPR Image via Shutterstock

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Microplastics have made their way into human poop

Zambia plans to cull 2,000 hippos over the next 5 years

October 23, 2018 by  
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Two years ago, the Republic of Zambia in south-central Africa suspended its plans for the controlled slaughter of up to 2,000 hippos over five years following protests from animal rights activists . The country has recently revived those plans, claiming that the water levels in the Luangwa River — where most of the hippos are located — can’t support the current hippo population. According to Zambia’s tourism minister  Charles Banda, it would be too costly to move the hippos to another part of the country. Instead, the government has decided to proceed with its plans to cull the hippo population in eastern Zambia. “The South Luangwa National Park has a population of more than 13,000 hippos, but the area is only ideal for 5,000 hippos,” Banda said. Related: Hippos could be threatened with extinction due to demand for their teeth The Zambian government believes that overpopulation could threaten Zambia’s ecosystem , and Banda added that moving the hippos to other bodies of water would be “very expensive,” leaving culling as the only option. The government also insists that controlling the number of hippos in the area will stop the spread of anthrax — a bacterial disease commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa that kills animals — and the low rainfall in the region has just made the situation worse. As Reuters reports, during the summer of 2016, the British wildlife charity Born Free led a campaign against the culling of hippos and described it as trophy hunting . After the recent announcement to continue with the culling, Born Free said on its website that Zambia has not provided any solid, scientific evidence that there is actually a hippo overpopulation problem at the Luangwa River. Born Free also stated that scientific evidence suggests that culling hippos actually stimulates breeding, ultimately increasing the hippo population, which could potentially establish a “cycle of death and destruction.” Back in 2016, Born Free also questioned Zambia’s scientific rationale for killing 2,000 hippos when the population in southern Africa is around 80,000. Via Reuters and Born Free Image via Lars Plougmann and Sarah Depper

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Zambia plans to cull 2,000 hippos over the next 5 years

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