Plastics have found their way to unimaginable places like the bottomless ocean trenches and placentas of unborn babies. But this is the first time its presence has been proven in the human bloodstream. In a study linked to finding out if plastic particles can assimilate across human body membranes, Dutch scientists revealed, on 24th March 2022, the shocking discovery of plastic particle exposure in human blood. "Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood – it's a breakthrough result," said Dick Vethaak, Prof. dr. at Deltares and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Out of the 22 anonymized blood samples taken, about 80% had traces of plastic particle pollution
PMMA, PP, PS, PE, and PET were the five target polymers. Meanwhile, recoveries of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), a well-known glass replacement thermoplastic material, showed in 5% of the samples. Polystyrene (PS) is commonly used for disposable containers (and related), in over one-third of the samples. Polyethylene (PE), a popular packaging industry ingredient, in 23% of the samples. And, PET plastic (polyethylene terephthalate), an ingredient used extensively for manufacturing plastic water bottles, in 11 samples. The estimated average plastic particle concentration per ml blood sample for each donor was 1.6 g total plastic particles/ml.
The study conclusively demonstrated the presence of microplastics in human blood, according to Alice Horton, an anthropogenic contaminants scientist at the National Oceanography Centre (United Kingdom). "This study contributes to the evidence that plastic particles have not just pervaded the environment, but are pervading our bodies too."
While the sample size and the data of the volunteers' exposure levels were limited, the researchers believe that the study is reliable and will hold water, calling for more research to be undertaken.
The next urgency is to figure out where these particles are going— if they are targeting specific organs— and whether the level of concentration is strong enough to cause damage. "After all, blood connects all of our body's organs, and if plastic is present, it could be anywhere," said Dr. Fay Couceiro, Reader in Biogeochemistry and Environmental Pollution, University of Portsmouth.
*The study was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) and Common Seas, a non-profit organization dedicated to combating plastic pollution.
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