Study Finds Microplastic in Human Blood (For the First Time)

We’ve all heard about the dangers of microplastics in our oceans, but it’s a different story when it comes to humans. While researchers have long suspected that we might be ingesting microplastic particles through our food and water supplies, this is the first time to prove that microplastic in human blood is real.

The particles were found in organ tissue as well as circulating blood, meaning these tiny pieces of plastic have made their way into your body and could be affecting your health. 

What are Microplastics?

Microplastics are very minute fragments of plastic so small that the average person’s eye cannot detect them. They start as more significant pieces of plastic that break down over time and can be found in many different places: oceans, rivers, lakes, and even in the air.

Microplastics are everywhere—and they’re getting into everything! They’re in our food chain and in our drinking water. Even our tap water contains microplastics! Some microplastics even come from your clothes—the fibers from synthetic fabrics break down into tiny pieces that can make their way into waterways.

Because microplastics are so tiny, it is difficult to clean them up when they’re in large quantities. This means we must stop using so many plastics in the first place, so we don’t have to deal with cleaning up after ourselves later on down the line!

How do microplastics get into humans?

Plastic is all around us, and it’s in us.

A new study found that 17 out of 22 blood samples from healthy adults contained plastic particles.

The scientists studied blood samples from 22 healthy and unidentified donors and found out that 77.27% of the donors contained plastic particles in their blood. 1/2 of the samples had polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, 1/3 contained polystyrene, and 1/4 of the blood samples contained polyethylene. These are things we use daily, such as drinking water, food packaging, and plastic bags. 

Professor Dick Vethaak, a Dutch ecotoxicologist, noted that although the study has made a breakthrough in locating microplastic in human blood, the sample size and number of polymers evaluated must be increased. He also stated that microplastics were ten times more prevalent in the feces of infants who ingested plastic bottles than in those of adults.

How do these particles get into our system?

These little plastic fragments may not seem like a huge concern, but they are making their way into places they shouldn’t be—including our bodies!

Most microplastics are small enough to pass through the body without being absorbed, but humans can ingest some. These microplastics can come from the exfoliation of our skin (microbeads), the breakdown of plastic bottles and other products, or through the air, we breathe.

Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism absorbs a contaminant quicker than it can eliminate, accumulating that toxin in its tissues. Microplastics can pass through the membranes of organisms, allowing them to collect within the cells and tissues of an organism.

Related: Microplastic in Water Bottles – How Dangerous is It?

What proof exists for their existence in humans?

 In an effort to understand the impact of microplastic in blood, the researchers developed a new method for testing the samples for microplastic contamination.

The new research, published in Environment International and adapted from existing techniques, detects and analyses particles as small as 0.0007mm—some of which turned out to be microplastics. The researchers avoided infection by utilizing iron injection needles and glass pipes. They analyzed the quantities of microplastics in the background using blank specimens.

Vethaak also admitted that the ground-breaking work had left them with doubts regarding what these particles are doing to our body, whether or not they are retained, and whether or not these trigger diseases.

According to a different study, red blood cells may become attached to microplastics, reducing the amount of oxygen they can carry. The study also discovered that these particles were present in pregnant rats’ and women’s placentas. The study also found that the particles quickly entered the hearts, brains, and other organs of the developing fetuses after entering their lungs.

More than 80 NGOs, scientists, and MPs are urging the United Kingdom to allocate a budget to fund research on the human health impacts of plastic. 

Final Thoughts

While the health consequences of this exposure to microplastics are still not well understood, these latest findings reveal the importance of further research into the issue. We need to start thinking about minimizing our exposure if we want to reduce the level of microplastic in human blood—and fast.

All these things give us more reason to take care of our consumption habits, and educational institutions and governments need to take action. 

Browse the I’m Plastic Free directory to discover plastic pollution solutions.

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