Detecting microplastics in human blood

What kind of microplastics were found in human blood in a recent study? Can these particles travel through the body?

What kind of microplastics were found in human blood in a recent study? Can these particles travel through the body?

The story so far: Microplastics, as the name suggests, are tiny plastic particles that are found in various places: the oceans, the environment and now in the human blood. A study by researchers from the Netherlands (Heather A. Leslie et al, Environment International, published online March 24) examined blood samples from 22 individuals, all anonymous donors and healthy adults, and found plastic particles in 17 of them. A report on this work, published in the guard indicates that about half of this was PET (polyethylene tetraphthalate) plastic, which is used to make food-grade bottles. The size of the particles the group was looking for was as small as about 700 nanometers (equivalent to 0.0007 millimeters). This is very small and it remains to be seen whether there is a danger of such particles passing through the blood cell walls and affecting the organs. Also, a larger study needs to be conducted to solidify the current findings.

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are small pieces of different types of plastic that are found in the environment. The name is used to distinguish them from ‘macroplastics’ such as plastic bottles and bags. There is no universal agreement on the size to fit this bill — the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European Chemicals Agency define microplastic as less than 5mm in length. However, for the purposes of this study, since the authors were interested in measuring the amounts of plastic that can cross the membranes and diffuse into the body through the bloodstream, the authors have an upper limit on the size of the particles as 0, 0007 millimeters .

What were the plastics the study looked for in the blood samples?

The study looked at the most commonly used plastic polymers. These were polyethylene tetraphthalate (PET), polyethylene (used in making plastic carrier bags), polymers of styrene (used in food packaging), poly (methyl methyl acrylate) and polypropylene. They found a presence of the first four types.

How was the research conducted?

In the study, blood from 22 adult healthy volunteers was collected anonymously, stored in containers protected from contamination, and then analyzed for plastic. The size of the bore in the needle served to filter out microplastics of a larger size than desired. This was compared to appropriate controls to exclude pre-existing presence of plastic in the background.

What are the main results of this research?

The study found that 77% of the people tested (17 out of 22 people) were carrying varying amounts of microplastics above the quantifiable limit. The researchers detected PET particles in 50% of the samples. In 36% they found the presence of polystyrene. 23% polyethylene and 5% poly(methyl methyl acrylate) were also found. However, traces of polypropylene were not detected.

They found an average of 1.6 micrograms of plastic particles per milliliter of blood sample in each donor. They write in the paper that this can be interpreted as an estimate of what to expect in future studies. It is a useful starting point for the further development of analytical studies for human matrices research.

What is the significance of the study?

Making a risk assessment for human health related to plastic particles is not easy, perhaps not even possible, due to the lack of data on human exposure to plastic. In that sense, it’s important to have studies like this one. The authors of the paper also note that validated methods to detect the minute (trace) amounts of extremely small (less than 10 micrometers) plastic particles are lacking. Therefore, this study, which develops a method to verify this, is important. Due to the small size of the participants, the research results cannot be used as such for fungal policy etc, but the strength of this article lies in the method and in demonstrating that such a possibility to find microplastics in the blood exists.

Does the presence of microplastics in blood have health effects?

It is not yet clear whether these microplastics can cross from the bloodstream into organs and cause disease. The authors point out that the human placenta has been shown to be permeable to small particles of polystyrene (50, 80 and 24 nanometer granules). Experiments on rats in which the lungs were exposed to polystryrene beads (20 nanometers) resulted in translocation of the nanoparticles to the placenta and fetal tissue. Oral administration of microplastics in rats resulted in their accumulation in the liver, kidneys and intestines.

Further studies need to be conducted to truly assess the impact of plastics on humans.

THE CORE

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that are found in various places in the environment – the oceans, the environment and now, according to recent studies, in human blood.

In the study, blood was collected from 22 healthy volunteers and analyzed for plastic content. This showed that 77% of the people tested (17 out of 22 people) had different amounts of microplastics with them above the quantifiable limit.

It is not yet clear whether these microplastics can cross from the bloodstream into organs and cause disease.

SOURCE – www.thehindu.com

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