Plastics found for the first time in human bloodstream

March 25, 2022
Plastics found for the first time in human bloodstream

Scientists from Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam, the Netherlands, have produced evidence of plastic particles being absorbed into the bloodstream, with a novel method involving the use of mass spectrometry. “We have now proven that our bloodstream, our river of life as it were, has plastic in it,” said VU ecotoxicologist Heather Leslie.

Discarded plastic waste is typically broken down by environmental aggressors like wind and ultraviolet (UV) light into smaller fragments known as microplastics. As microplastics trace their way through the environment they are taken up by living organisms, leading to detrimental effects.

Previous studies have found traces of plastics in samples of human tissue and stool, VU scientists sought to investigate the potential presence of plastics in human blood – the scientists based their investigation on five different polymers that are considered the building blocks of plastic.

After an analytical mass spectrometry technique was applied to samples, three quarters of 22 healthy donors were found to have plastic particles in the blood. The average concentration was 1.6 microgrammes per millilitre, around a teaspoon of plastic to every 1,000 litres of water; with polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyethylene, and polymers of styrene the most common forms of plastic to turn up.

The findings serve as the first evidence that plastics can end up in the human bloodstream.

The VU scientists hypothesise that the plastic’s route to the bloodstream is likely to be via “mucosal contact” (either ingestion or inhalation). They also note that airborne particles between 1 nanometre and 20 micrometres are considered respirable.

“This dataset is the first of its kind and must be expanded to gain insight into how widespread plastic pollution is in the bodies of humans, and how harmful that may be,” said VU analytical scientist Marja Lamoree. “With this insight we can determine whether exposure to plastic particles poses a threat to public health.”

Read: New study digs deeper into harmful effects of microplastics consumption

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Category: Features, Health alert

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