Microplasts, ie small fragments of any type of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters, enter natural ecosystems from a variety of sources – cosmetics, clothing, food packaging and industrial processes. Now, for the first time, scientists have found them in human blood, with plastic particles being found in almost 80% of those tested.
These tiny particles are they can move freely all over the body and get stuck in the organs, which can cause serious health problems. Researchers now want to understand the full range of effects – both short-term and long-term – on human health.
Microplasts in the blood
Microplasts are abundant around the world, from the highest mountains to the abyss of the Pacific Ocean. They can enter the human body in food, in water, and even in the air we breathe.
The researchers examined the blood samples of 22 anonymous healthy and adult volunteers. They found that 17 of them had plastic particles in their bodies. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) was used in half of the samples used, which is used for the production of beverage bottles. Another third of the samples contained polystyrene, which is used for packaging food and other goods. Some blood samples contained more than two types of plastics.
A quarter of the blood samples contained polyethylene, which is the basic material for the production of plastic bags. “Our study is the first proof that we have polymer particles in our blood – it’s a breakthrough.” says ecotoxicologist and professor Kick Vethaak of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
What does this mean for human health?
“The big question is,” Vethaak continues, “What does this amount of plastic do to the human body?” They could move to specific and common places or organs – perhaps slipping through the blood-brain barrier (transition between brain capillaries and brain tissue). In our brain or elsewhere microplasts could potentially cause serious diseases. “
The researchers are aware that the results of their research stand in a study with a relatively small number of participants. They therefore want to expand research, increase the number of volunteers and the types of plastics monitored. “We urgently need to fund more research to find out the details.” says Vethaak. Given the many other threats to public health, there is no time to waste.
Previous research has shown that the faeces of children and adults contain particles of synthetic substances. What was striking was the fact that the microplasts were present in children’s faeces at a concentration ten times higher than in the case of adult samples. According to scientists, this may be related to feeding children from plastic bottles, in which millions of microplastic particles are swallowed daily.