Microplastics found in human blood

For the first time in history, scientists have discovered particles of microplastic pollution in human blood.

A study at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has shown the first indication that human blood has been infested with plastic polymer particles. The study was a small one, including just 22 anonymous donors, and out of that sample 17 healthy adults were found to have at least traces of different types of plastic. This equates to 77.2% of all tests they made.

A third of samples contained PET plastic, which is what is found in soda bottles, while another third contained polystyrene, which is commonly found in packaging. In addition, half the samples contained traces of polyethylene. That is commonly the plastic used in plastic shopping bags.

However, this was a small study, and the scientists will now use this to further their studies. Professor Dick Vethaak, who helmed the study, called this “a breakthrough results”, which will lead to bigger sample sizes and further polymers being assessed. These new studies are already well under way.

What are the consequences of microplastics in blood?

That, we don’t know yet. But children are vulnerable to chemical exposure, as it could lead to problems during growth. We’ve already seen this in areas effected by nuclear waste, so we know how bad it can be.

The research is published in the journal Environment International. It uses existing techniques which have been adapted to detect particles as small as 0.0007mm.

It is a pioneering study, and it needs a lot of work. Professor Vethaak acknowledges differences in levels of plastics could be described by something as simple as people drinking coffee from a cup lined with plastic, or wearing a face mask.

But the ultimate goal is to find out what happens to our body because of this exposures, and what effect it has on different organs. We do not know what limits are safe, and what will cause harm.

This is an extremely interesting, and ultimately important, study, which will hopefully open more eyes to the issues caused by plastic waste.

Despite plastic being removed from a lot of areas of society, calculations show that plastic production might as much as double in the next two decades. And knowing what it does to our bodies will make sure we can head into the future knowing what efforts we as a society need to put in.

Perhaps moving towards biodegradable paper is better? But that might not be the case. Time will tell.