Microplastics Discovered in Human Blood
For years, it has been known that plastic is found almost everywhere on Earth; from the deep depths of the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench to the summit of Mount Everest, and even in baby feces. However, for the first time, scientists have detected microplastics, plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters in length that are partially broken down. A study conducted by Vrije University Amsterdam in the Netherlands collected blood samples from 22 anonymous, healthy donors to look for plastics that were between 700 and 500,000 nanometers. According to The Wire Science’s Aathira Perinchery, “700 nanometers is around 140 times smaller than the width of a human hair.”
17 of the blood samples, or about 77% of those tested, contained plastic. Of the samples, half contained PET plastic which is used in plastic bottles, a third contained polystyrene which is used for packaging food and products, and a quarter contained polyethylene which is used to make plastic carrier bags. Some of the blood samples contained two or three types of plastic. While donors might have been exposed to microplastics through food, air, and water, other possibilities include exposure through toothpaste or lipgloss, or accidental ingestion through dental polymers, parts of implants, or tattoo ink residues.
Professor Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije University Amsterdam, said “Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood―it’s a breakthrough result. But we have to extend the research and increase the sample sizes, the number of polymers assessed, etc.” Additionally, he explained that further studies with multiple groups are being conducted. According to a recent discovery, microplastics can cling to the outer membranes of red blood cells, limiting their ability to transport oxygen. However, more research is required to determine the health risks of microplastics in one’s bloodstream.
Guardian News and Media. (2022, March 24). Microplastics Found in Human Blood for First Time. The Guardian. Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/24/microplastics-found-in-human-blood-for-first-time
Magazine, S. (2022, March 28). Microplastics Detected in Human Blood in New Study. Smithsonian.com. Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/microplastics-detected-in-human-blood-180979826/
Microplastics Found in Human Bloodstream. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://vu.nl/en/news/2022/microplastics-found-in-human-bloodstream