The ravages of plastic waste are not finished with us. Unfortunately, the worst could just be beginning.
According to a recent study published in the journal Environmental International, scientists have detected microplastics in human blood for the first time worldwide, with tiny particles found in nearly 80% of the human participants tested.
These tiny particles can move freely throughout your body and become trapped in your organs, potentially leading to significant health problems. But now that we know, scientists are striving to understand the full scope of effects- both short & long term on human health.
It’s a puzzling discovery, but we all stick together as scientists try to explore the possible health effects.
Micro plastic are everywhere on earth
Microplastics have damaged human cells in laboratory experiments, and air pollution particles entering the body are known to be linked to millions of deaths every year. Significant amounts of plastic waste are spread in global environment, with microplastics abundant around the world, from tallest mountains to the abysmal depths of Pacific Ocean.
Food and water can contain tiny particles, and even the air we breathe can carry microplastics into our bodies: Particles of synthetic substance have been found in babies & adults feces.
The researchers examined blood samples from 22 anonymous, healthy, adult donors, and 17 had plastic particles in their bodies. PET plastic was found in half of the samples taken, usually in drinking bottles. Another third of the participants’ bodies contained polystyrene, which is used to package food & other materials.
Baby feces has 10X the microplastic levels of adults
A quarter of the blood samples contained polyethylene, which is the main material in plastic carrier bags. “Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood – it is a break-through result,” says ecotoxicologist & professor Kick Vethaak from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. , in the Netherlands, in a report from The Guardian.
“But we need to expand the investigation and increase the size of the samples, the number of polymers assessed, etc.,” he added. To Vethaak, this discovery is worrying. “The particles are there and they are transported through the body.” Previous work has shown that microplastics are present in the feces of babies at a consistency 10 times greater than that of adults.
Micro plastic might potentially be linked to onset of diseases
This could be linked to feeding babies plastic bottles, during which ingests millions of microplastic particles every day. “We also generally know that babies & young children are more vulnerable to exposure to chemicals & particles. That worries me a lot,” adds Vethaak, in report.
Recent research used existing techniques in novel ways to study particles as small as 0.0007 millimeters, with some blood samples showing more than two types of plastic. Of course, these results could be inaccurate if plastic test materials were used, so the researchers used syringe needles in combination with glass tubes to eliminate the possibility of contamination.
Where we go from here-
“The big question,” Vethaak continued in the report, is what does this abundance of plastic will do to a human body. They could move to specific, common sites or organs and perhaps slip through the blood-brain barrier. In our brains or elsewhere, microplastics could cause serious illnesses. “We urgently need to fund more research to find out,” says Vethaak. And with so many other public health threats, there is no time to waste.