‘Breakthrough results’: New study detects microplastic pollution in human blood for first time

While more studies need to be done to examine the direct effects of microplastics on the human body, researchers from the study warn microplastics can cause damage to human cells.

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A dutch study found tiny particles of plastic in human blood for the first time. Published in the journal, Environment International, the study indicates that humans are consuming plastic particles through food and water, and breathing it in through the air.

While the implications are unknown, the researchers said the new results are concerning.

“Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood—​it’s a breakthrough result,” Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands and lead researcher of the study, said. “It is certainly reasonable to be concerned. The particles are there and are transported throughout the body.”

The study, which was funded by the Dutch National Organization for Health Research and Development and Common Seas, a social enterprise working to reduce plastic, “tested 22 anonymous blood samples and found plastic particles in 80% of people tested,” Yahoo! Finance reported. The scientists found half the blood sampled contained PET plastic, which is used in packaging and drink bottles, the other third had polystyrene, which is used for packaging food and other products and the remaining quarter of the blood sampled contained polyethylene, which is found in plastic shopping bags.

“The big question is what is happening in our body?” Vethaak said. “Are the particles retained in the body? Are they transported to certain organs, such as getting past the blood-brain barrier?” And are these levels sufficiently high to trigger disease? We urgently need to fund further research so we can find out.”

While more studies need to be done to examine the direct effects of microplastics on the human body, researchers from the study warn microplastics can cause damage to human cells. In laboratory studies that exposed microplastics to cells or human tissue, or to animals such as mice or rats, inflammation in their small intestines, lowered sperm count and fewer, smaller pups were a result compared to the control groups.

“We also know in general that babies and young children are more vulnerable to chemical and particle exposure,” he said. “That worries me a lot.”

With plastic production set to double by 2040, researchers said the world must wean itself off the plastic not increase it.

“More detailed research on how micro- and nano-plastics affect the structures and processes of the human body, and whether and how they can transform cells and induce carcinogenesis, is urgently needed, particularly in light of the exponential increase in plastic production. The problem is becoming more urgent with each day.”

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