Scientists find microplastics in blood for first time

Half of the blood samples showed traces of PET plastic, which is widely used to make drinking bottles

Half of the blood samples showed traces of PET plastic, which is widely used to make drinking bottles

Scientists have discovered microplastics in human blood for the first time, warning that the ubiquitous particles could also find their way into organs.

The small pieces of mostly invisible plastic have already been found almost everywhere on Earth, from the deepest oceans to the highest mountains, as well as in the air, the soil and the food chain.

A Dutch study published Thursday in the journal Environment International examined blood samples from 22 anonymous, healthy volunteers and found microplastics in almost 80% of them.

Half of the blood samples showed traces of PET plastic, which is widely used to make drinking bottles, while more than a third was made of polystyrene, which is used in disposable packaging for food and many other products.

“This is the first time that we have actually been able to detect and quantify such microplastics in human blood,” says Dick Vethaak, ecotoxicologist at VU University Amsterdam.

“This is proof that we have plastic in our bodies — and we shouldn’t,” he told AFPcalling for further research to explore how it may affect health.

“Where does it go in your body? Can it be eliminated? Secreted? Or is it retained in certain organs, maybe accumulate, or can it even cross the blood-brain barrier?”

According to the research, the microplastics could have entered the body through many routes: through air, water or food, as well as in products such as certain toothpastes, lip glosses and tattoo inks.

“It is scientifically plausible that plastic particles can be transported to organs through the bloodstream,” the study added.

Mr Vethaak also said there may be other types of microplastics in the blood that his research failed to pick up – for example, it was unable to detect particles larger than the diameter of the needle used to take the sample.

The study was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development and Common Seas, a UK-based group focused on reducing plastic pollution.

Alice Horton, an anthropogenic contaminants scientist at Britain’s National Oceanography Centre, said the study showed “unequivocally” that there were microplastics in the blood.

“This study adds to the evidence that plastic particles have permeated not only the entire environment, but also our bodies,” she told the Science Media Center.

Fay Couceiro, reader in biogeochemistry and environmental pollution at the University of Portsmouth, said that despite the small sample size and lack of data on participants’ exposure levels, she felt the study was “robust and resistant to scrutiny.”

She also called for further investigation.

“Ultimately, blood connects all the organs of our body, and if there is plastic, it could be all over us.”


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