Microplastics are already in our blood. We had found them, because nature itself transports them (air, water), in the deepest point of the ocean, in the Mariana Trench and even on Mount Everest. No corner of the planet is free from this scourge of plastic. We even discovered that birds of prey and other animals were consuming microplastics. Now, these residues that measure 5 millimeters or less come from many sources, they have also been found in human blood for the first time since we have known of their existence.
A team of Dutch researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam took blood samples from 22 anonymous healthy adult donors and analyzed them for small particles: they found that 17 of the 22 volunteers (77.2%) had microplastics in their blood , a finding described as “extremely concerning”.
Experts developed a method to accurately measure microplastic concentrations in human blood, and just as they suspected, it showed that microplastics from the outside world are ending up in the bloodstream of humans.
What kind of plastics are in the blood?
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyethylene, and styrene polymers were the most common types of plastic found in blood samples, followed by poly(methyl methacrylate) ; They are part of the plastics we use regularly, from plastic bottles and shopping bags to food containers and disposable cutlery.
On average, 1.6 micrograms of plastic material were measured per milliliter of blood (that is, about a teaspoon of plastic per 1,000 liters of water), with the highest concentration being just over 7 micrograms. The researchers found up to three different types of plastic in a single blood sample.
“Now we have shown that our bloodstream, our river of life, if you will, has plastic in it,” said Heather Leslie, leader of the study published in the journal Environment International.
And what does this mean for health?
Scientists are still trying to determine the effect of ingesting these tiny particles, but it’s clear the problem is growing and animal studies hint at some seriously concerning effects. We have seen the detrimental impacts on marine creatures, with microplastics found to cause aneurysms in fish and cognitive decline in hermit crabs. On the other hand, other studies have shown that plastic particles can have toxic effects on cells and alter their shape. Mouse experiments also suggest they might infiltrate the blood-brain barrier and contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease. But there is still much to know. And, as more microplastics are everywhere, the higher concentration of microplastics we will gradually find in our bloodstream.
This discovery shows that the particles can travel through the body and lodge in the organs. “It is scientifically plausible that plastic particles can be transported to the organs through the bloodstream,” says the expert.
We are eating, drinking and breathing plastic
“This study adds to the evidence that plastic particles have not only invaded the environment, but are also invading our bodies ,” Alica Horton, anthropogenic pollutants scientist at Britain’s National Oceanography Centre, told Science Media. Centre.
The World Health Organization (WHO) currently says “there is no evidence to indicate a human health concern” about microplastics in drinking water, although it notes that this is based on the limited amount of information currently available.
Referencia: Heather A. Leslie et al, Discovery and quantification of plastic particle pollution in human blood, Environment International (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2022.107199