A new study has found that human blood is filled with “plastic dust,” and pollution is to blame!
According to the researchers, there is virtually no place on Earth right now that is free of the “polymer fog,” a cloud of microplastic dust, so it should come as a surprise to no one that our bloodstream and organs are filled with the stuff.
The actual impact on your personal health of the plastic dust in your veins is yet to be fully understood, but the fact that it is there gives more evidence to just how pervasive, damaging plastics are throughout the environment and that we are obviously ingesting them in everything from the foods we eat to the very air we breathe!
Researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University Medical Center analyzed blood samples taken from 22 healthy anonymous donors for traces of common synthetic polymers larger than 700 nanometers across.
After the team went to great lengths to keep their equipment free of contaminants and test for background levels of plastics, two different methods for identifying the chemical make-up and masses of particles uncovered evidence of several plastic species across 17 of the samples.
Though the exact combinations varied between samples, the microplastics included polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – commonly used in clothing and drink bottles – and polymers of styrene, often used in vehicle parts, carpets, and food containers.
On average, 1.6 micrograms of plastic material were measured for every milliliter of blood, with the highest concentration being just over 7 micrograms.
The researchers couldn’t give a precise breakdown of the particle sizes due to the limitations of the testing methods. It’s safe to presume, however, that smaller particles closer to the 700 nanometer limit of the analysis would be easier for the body to take in than larger particles exceeding 100 micrometers.
There’s still so much we just don’t know about the chemical and physical effects of these tiny plastic materials nestled among our cells and infiltrating our organs. Animal studies hint at some seriously concerning effects, but interpreting their results within a human health context is far from straightforward.
Nonetheless, the problem is a growing one, with plastic waste entering our oceans set to double by 2040. As all of those discarded shoes, forks, bread tags, steering wheels, and chocolate wrappers break up, a greater concentration of microplastics will gradually find its way into our bloodstream.
If it’s the dose that makes a poison, it’s possible we might cross a line at some point where relatively harmless traces of styrene and PET could start to have some alarming effects on the way our cells grow. Especially during development.
“We also know in general that babies and young children are more vulnerable to chemical and particle exposure,” said Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
As alarmed as these researchers were by their findings, their test sample was a very small one. A lot more research will be needed on larger, more diverse groups to map just how and where microplastics spread and accumulate in humans, how and if our body eventually discards them, and what is there overall impact on health and longevity.