For the first time, scientists have discovered concentrations of microplastics in human blood, raising concerns about plastic pollution.
Looks like microplastics are not just harming the oceans and the environment, but also humans. While the tiny particles have previously been seen in human organs and placentas, in a first-of-its-kind study, scientists have now found microplastics in human blood. The team at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam published their findings in the journal Environment International.
Previously, researchers had identified a link between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and microplastics. Their study had found 1.5 times higher levels of microplastics in people with IBD. Thus, suggesting a possible relation between the two.
Using steel syringe needles and glass tubes, the team collected 22 blood samples from healthy individuals. They examined the blood for the presence of five commonly used types of plastics. According to the results, almost 80% of the participants had small concentrations of microplastics in their bloodstream. A majority of the samples contained polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyethylene, and polymers of styrene. These are commonly present in drink bottles and food packaging.
Although the overall concentration of plastic was comparable to a teaspoon of plastic in 1,000 liters of blood, it is significant enough to raise concerns regarding health risks. However, it is unclear how much of a threat these tiny particles pose to human health. Moreover, it is unclear whether microplastics can cross the blood-brain barrier, or how they enter the bloodstream.
The researchers at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam now plan to conduct further studies, with a larger sample size, to fully assess the risk of microplastics.
Leslie, Heather A., et al. “Discovery and Quantification of Plastic Particle Pollution in Human Blood.” Environment International, 2022, p. 107199., doi:10.1016/j.envint.2022.107199.