Scientists found something disturbing in human blood, and they think it might severely damage our health in the long run.
The particles they found in human blood for the first time are present in almost 80% of the people they tested.
The discovery shows that these particles can travel around the body and may lodge in organs. The impact this will have on our health is yet undiscovered, but researchers are concerned because these particles cause damage in human cells tested in the laboratory. Also, air pollution particles are already known to enter the body and cause millions of early deaths a year.
Nowadays huge amounts of plastic waste are dumped in the environment due to the unaccountable actions of human behaviour. They found plastic waste from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans. We have already discovered that tiny particles of plastic can be consumed via food and water as well as breathing them in, and they have been found in the faeces of babies and adults.
Research scientists analyzed blood samples from 22 healthy subjects and found particles of plastic in the blood in 17 of the participants. In half of the samples they found PET plastic, which is know to be prevalent in drink bottles, while 1/3 of them contained polystyrene, used for packaging food and products. A quarter of the blood samples contained polyethylene, from which plastic carrier bags are made.
“Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood – it’s a breakthrough result,” said Professor Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands. “But we have to extend the research and increase the sample sizes, the number of polymers assessed, etc.” This topic has to be studied further, and they are underway, he said.
“It is certainly reasonable to be concerned,” Vethaak told the Guardian. “The particles are there and are transported throughout the body.” He said previous work had shown that microplastics were 10 times higher in the faeces of babies compared with adults and that babies fed with plastic bottles are swallowing millions of microplastic particles a day.
“We also know in general that babies and young children are more vulnerable to chemical and particle exposure,” he said. “That worries me a lot.”
The professor noted that the amount of plastic in the blood samples varied, but still, “this is a pioneering study” he said.
“The big question is what is happening in our body?” Vethaak said. “Are the particles retained in the body? Are they transported to certain organs, such as getting past the blood-brain barrier?” And are these levels sufficiently high to trigger disease? We urgently need to fund further research so we can find out.”
A new review paper, co-authored by the professor himself, assessed cancer risk and concluded: “More detailed research on how micro- and nano-plastics affect the structures and processes of the human body, and whether and how they can transform cells and induce carcinogenesis, is urgently needed, particularly in light of the exponential increase in plastic production. The problem is becoming more urgent with each day.”
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