Microplastics in the Blood

Microplastics in Blood: What they are and how they impact the body.

When most people think of the words “harmful” and “plastic,” it is almost second nature

for them to picture plastic bottles and waste littering the planet, or even invading wildlife

habitats; especially in marine life such as the ocean. Yet what most people do not even dare to

imagine when they think about the term “harmful plastic'' is the possibility that their human body

could possibly be filled with plastics as well, similar to the plastics that harm the environment,

biodiversity, and wildlife on earth, however this is the very possibility we must now consider our

reality.

The term “microplastic” is used to describe specks of plastics that are by definition less

than 5mm in any dimension, and these very plastics have recently been linked to being within the

human body and human bloodstream. In a recent study of 22 anonymous blood samples from

perfectly healthy adults, 17 samples came back with results showing four types of microplastics

being found in said samples. The types of microplastics found within the blood samples can be

separated into two categories, primary microplastics and secondary microplastics, with the first

type of microplastics being found within cosmetic products and the second category of

microplastics resulting from the breakdown of larger plastic items. The entry of these

microplastics within the bloodstream of humans can be accounted for in several fashions such as

accidental consumption via food and water, inhalation, drinking out of plastic cups and bottles,

and even wearing plastic face masks. While humans have already been known to accidentally consume microplastics in the past, only recently were they discovered within the bloodstream of

humans.

In addition to microplastics being linked to human blood, studies have also linked these

microplastics to being found within human feces and urine. With the linkage of microplastics to

the human body and feces, it was found that the amount of microplastics in the feces of babies

was 10 times higher than those of adults, and due to the fact that babies drink out of plastic

bottles, they probably swallow millions of microplastic particles on a daily basis. These findings

are especially concerning considering the already known fact that children and babies are more

susceptible and vulnerable to chemical and particle exposure in comparison to adults. However,

while babies did tend to have higher rates of microplastic particles found within their feces, the

results from the studies of adult samples were considerably varied and can propose that several

different factors contribute to the amounts of microplastics being found in one’s body; some

factors being less harmful than others.

Unfortunately there has not been any studies that have looked at the long term effect of

these plastics being found in human blood, and further research will need to be conducted in

order to determine the severity of the issue at hand. However, other present-time effects of

microplastics in the human body have been found and some are the destabilization of the lipid

membranes of cells, the limiting of a red blood cell’s ability to transport oxygen, cell death, and

the overall detriment caused to a cell’s ability to function. Microplastics have also been found

within the placenta of pregnant women, which scientists believe to have been reached through

the bloodstream, yet the effect they have on organs is still unknown.

While it is very easy for humans to think of plastic and plastic waste as a terrible issue for

the planet and our ecosystems - which it most definitely still is- we must also begin to consider how the plastic waste we produce is beginning to affect our very own bodies in both minuscule

and harmful ways.



Sources

Microplastics found in blood for the first time: What this may mean

(medicalnewstoday.com)

Microplastics found in human blood for first time | Plastics | The Guardian

Microplastics Found In Human Blood (webmd.com)

Microplastics found in human blood for first time - MAHB (stanford.edu)

What are microplastics? (noaa.gov)

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