Microplastics found in blood for the first time: what it may mean

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The newest vessel in MIcroplastics, according to new research, is human blood. pcess609/Getty Images
  • Scientists have been concerned for many years about the harmful effects of microplastics.
  • In a new study, researchers have developed a method for detecting microplastics in human blood.
  • Scientists found microparticles of four common plastics in blood samples from 17 out of 22 healthy adults.
  • Further research could determine whether microplastics in the blood will impact health.

Plastics are everywhere. Although in theory much of it can be recycled, much of it ends up in landfills, or worse, in waterways and marine ecosystems.

Many people are all too familiar with the harrowing images of turtles and dolphins trapped in plastic bags or fishing nets. But there is a less visible effect — microplasticstiny plastic particles formed when plastics break down and during the manufacture of commercial products.

Several studies have found evidence of plastics in the human body. A revelation came after scientists detected plastic additives such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates in human urine. Researchers have also found microplastics in human excrement. However, so far, no published study has examined directly the effect of these tiny plastic particles on human health.

In one new study published in the journal international environment, researchers in the Netherlands have developed a method for analyzing human blood to detect microplastics. They then used this method to analyze the blood of 22 healthy volunteers.

Microplastics are grains of plastic. By definition, they measure less than 5 mm in any dimension, but many are invisible to the naked eye. There are two types of microplastics: primary microplastics and secondary microplastics. The former are the particles used in some cosmetic products, and the latter come from the breakdown products of larger plastic items.

Much of the concern about microplastics previously focused on their effect on the marine environment, as they are found in oceans around the world. Many marine organisms, such as fish and crustaceans, have been found contain microplastics.

“It is very likely, given the prevalence of microplastics in the air, water, wildlife, food chain, that they will also enter the human body, but the technical difficulties of measuring microplastic particles in the body human have made it difficult to confirm it.”

Professor Tamara Gallowaychair of ecotoxicology at the University of Exeter, UK

For this study, the researchers looked for particles that could be absorbed through the membranes of the human body. They filtered the blood to collect all plastic particles between 700 nanometers (nm) and 500,000 nm. To avoid plastic contamination, the researchers used fiberglass filters.

The researchers looked for five common plastics:

Filter samples were treated with double shot pyrolysis produce chromatograms from which scientists could identify the contents.

“Human biomonitoring methods for measuring plastic additives have been available for several years […] But measuring microplastics, especially at the small size that would likely travel through blood vessels (Medical News Today.

“This article is good news because it describes a method that is sensitive enough to do this in blood samples and combines size fractionation and mass measurements,” she added.

More than three quarters of the blood samples contained a quantifiable mass of plastic particles.

Researchers found PET – which most drink bottles are made of – in the blood of more than half of those tested. They did not detect PP in any of the samples.

Researchers have found at least 3 different types of plastic in some blood samples.

Professor Galloway was not surprised by the results:

“The fact that almost everyone has microplastic in their blood is not so surprising when you consider that almost everyone has plastic additives in their body.”

Researchers suggest several ways plastics may have entered the bloodstream – via air, food, water, personal care products such as toothpaste and lip gloss, dental polymers and dental residue. tattoo ink. What happens to microplastics once they enter the bloodstream is unclear.

In vitro studies have shown the effects of microplastics on cells. A recent study in Germany have found that microplastic particles can destabilize lipid membranes — the barriers that surround all cells — which can affect their functioning. Another one study found that microplastics had many effects on cells, including cell death.

The current study was based on a sample of just 22 people, so the authors emphasize the need for further research:

“It remains to be determined whether plastic particles are present in plasma or are carried by specific cell types.”

However, they believe that “[i]It is scientifically plausible that plastic particles can be transported to organs via the bloodstream.

The effect they might have on the organs is still unknown.

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