New study digs deeper into harmful effects of microplastics consumption

December 13, 2021
New study digs deeper into harmful effects of microplastics consumption

The volume of plastics consumed through food and water can potentially have devastating effects on human health. In the first-of-its-kind study, scientists at Hull York Medical School, UK, have explored the effects of plastics/microplastics consumption as it travels up the food chain, finding that the concentrations we are exposed to can cause tissue damage and even cell death.

Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic broken down in the ocean. Microplastics has been shown to alter the shape of and de-cluster human lung cells and infiltrate the blood brain barrier in animal experiments.

“Our research shows that we are ingesting microplastics at the levels consistent with harmful effects on cells, which are in many cases the initiating event for health effects,” said postgraduate student Evangelos Danopoulos. “What we have found is that [in] toxicology tests, we are seeing reactions including cell death and allergic reactions as potential effects of ingesting or inhaling high levels of microplastics.”

The scientists analysed the effects of the levels of microplastics on human cells using a statistical analysis of available published studies which quantified microplastic contamination in drinking water, seafood, and table salt – all of which reported excessive amounts of human consumption. The new study found that concentrations of microplastics impacted cell membranes and led to oxidative stress, causing cell or tissue damage.

The scientists also noted that the damage a microplastic particle caused depended on its shape: irregular-shaped microplastics were more hazardous than spherical-shaped forms of microplastics.

The scientists are still curious as to how microplastics behave in the human body, how the digestive process might alter their effects, and how microplastics are excreted from the body.

“This is a crucial point to understand the true level of risk,” said Danopoulos.

Read: Microplastics in drinking water not hazardous at current levels, says WHO

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Category: Features, Health alert

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