Microplastics found in human blood for the first time

  • 2022-09-08
Plastic is a ubiquitous pollutant on the earth. Scientists have found microplastics in Mount Everest, the Mariana Trench and even in human feces, and now Dutch researchers have discovered a new container for plastic: human blood vessels.

Humans ingest plastic particles through food and water, inhale them through the air, and may also be exposed to microplastics through certain products such as toothpaste, lip gloss, and tattoo ink. In previous studies, scientists have found evidence of plastic entering the human body: In October 2018, researchers at the Medical University of Vienna announced at the European Gastroenterology Conference that the presence of microplastics had been detected in human feces, and that microplastics entered the human body. The human gastrointestinal tract has become an established fact; an even more surprising discovery was made at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in August 2020. The presence of microplastics was detected in human lung, liver, spleen and kidney tissue samples; January 2021 In January, a study published in Environment International found the presence of microplastics in the placenta of healthy women who were pregnant with normal pregnancies, with 12 spherical or irregular microplastic fragments detected ranging in size Between 5 and 10 μm (similar in size to red blood cells); in a study published in September 2021 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, scientists describe microplastics found in infant feces. But none of these studies can determine whether the plastic particles that enter the body are directly excreted or slip into the body's blood vessels. A study by Dutch researchers published in Environment International in March 2022 sheds light on the mystery.

The researchers examined blood samples from 22 anonymous healthy volunteers, looking for plastics between 700 nanometers (700 nanometers) (about 140 times smaller than the width of a human hair) and 500,000 nanometers in diameter. It was found that 80% of the test subjects had plastic particles in their blood, half of which contained polyethylene terephthalate (commonly used to make beverage bottles) and a third contained polystyrene (used in food packaging). etc.), a quarter of the blood samples contain polyethylene (for plastic bags etc.). The average concentration of microplastics in blood is 1.6 micrograms per milliliter, which is about one teaspoon of plastic per 1,000 liters of water. These plastic particles may move around the body and become attached to organs.

"This is the first time we have actually been able to detect and quantify microplastics in human blood," ecotoxicologist Dick Vethaak of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam wrote in the article.

The research is particularly significant in that it confirms a long-standing assumption by many scientists that when humans inhale or ingest microplastics, these particles not only sneak into the body, but stay there. Second, the researchers in the study collected samples without using any plastic, which could contaminate the results—in a world where so many medical devices, including those used to draw blood, are made of plastic In the world, it is not easy.

While the discovery of plastic in human blood is concerning, it's actually not surprising. Because the fact that plastic enters the human body through breathing and eating has been scientifically proven. As for how and how much they accumulate in the human digestive system, organs, and blood, and what health problems it causes, it's worth further research.

However, this study is only a small sample experiment of 22 people, and considering that research on microplastics is still in its infancy, it may be a while before scientists know exactly how these particles interact with the human body. So, in some ways, this study asks more questions than answers. Citing some of these unanswered questions in the report, the researchers wrote, "The fate of plastic particles in the blood requires further research to answer questions about potential bioaccumulation in the general population and in workers with frequent exposure to plastic particles. , and the resulting exposure to internal organs and toxicological issues that can arise from different situations.” In other words, where do microplastics go in human blood? Do they metastasize to specific organs? What damage, if any, did they do when they got there? Studies in rats and mice have shown that the physical presence of microplastics in the body may lead to an aggressive immune system response that can harm other organs, and that microplastics may also penetrate the blood-brain barrier, leading to high cholesterol and heart disease . These studies also need to be replicated in humans. Just as importantly, it's unclear whether the particles also leach harmful chemicals into the bloodstream.

In view of this, researchers have begun to study plastic exposure models, which can help answer the question of microplastics damage to the human body. Most of these models are based on exposure studies in laboratory animals. And the Dutch study shows how much microplastics get into human blood, which means he can fine-tune the models to make them more accurate.

We see plastic in the environment almost every day, but forget its potential environmental hazards when walking into the store, so many people will use plastic food packaging bags in supermarkets without any scruples, and some environmentally conscious people are in You might complain when you see fruit sold wrapped in plastic wrap, but then buy them anyway. Because, at present, a plastic-free world cannot be realized for human beings. How to reduce the negative impact of plastics on human beings, in addition to reducing the use of plastic consumables, also needs to rely on science and technology to find more environmentally friendly alternatives or more Proven degradation technology.

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