Study detects microplastic in living human lungs for first time

In 11 out of 13 people sampled, a total of 39 microplastics were found in all regions of the lung.


After a study recently revealed microplastics were found in human blood, new research shows further evidence that microplastics are penetrating the living body. A study, which will be published in Science of the Total Environment, found microplastics in the lung tissue of living people for the first time.

In 11 out of 13 people sampled, a total of 39 microplastics were found in all regions of the lung, according to the study.

“Microplastics have previously been found in human cadaver autopsy samples; this is the first robust study to show microplastics in lungs from live people,” Laura Sadofsky, senior author of the study from Hull York medical school, said.

While previous studies conducted during autopsies found plastics in lung samples, this study, which was conducted on live people, used spectrometry to identify “11 microplastics in the upper parts of the lung, seven in the middle and 21 in the lower parts,” according to the Press Association.

“We did not expect to find the highest number of particles in the lower regions of the lungs, or particles of the sizes we found,” Sadofsky said. “It is surprising as the airways are smaller in the lower parts of the lungs and we would have expected particles of these sizes to be filtered out or trapped before getting this deep.”

The two types of plastic most commonly found in the human lungs were “polypropylene, which is used for packaging and pipes, and PET, which is commonly used for beverage bottles,” according to EcoWatch. Authors of this study now feel confident there is a correlation between air pollution, microplastics and human health.

“This data provides an important advance in the field of air pollution, microplastics and human health,” Sadofsky said, as the Press Association reported. “The characterisation of types and levels of microplastics we have found can now inform realistic conditions for laboratory exposure experiments with the aim of determining health impacts.”


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