Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Microplastics found in human blood for the first time

Polymers in human blood represent several high production volume plastics.

Plastic particles are ubiquitous pollutants in the living environment and food chain. However, no study has reported on the internal exposure of plastic particles in human blood. A new study was concerned with plastic particles that can be absorbed across membranes in the human body.

This study seeks to answer the question of human blood contains plastic fragments. And if so, what kind of hazardous immune system effects can we expect?

Scientists have become the first to demonstrate that plastic particles from our living environment end up in the human bloodstream. The research team was led by ecotoxicologist Heather Leslie and analytical chemist Marja Lamoree from VU Amsterdam, Deltares, and Amsterdam UMC, VUmc location.

For this study, scientists developed an analytic method for establishing the trace level of micro-and nanoplastic particles in human blood. They applied this method to measure plastic particles in whole human blood from 22 healthy volunteers. The next task includes examining the presence of five different polymers, the building blocks of plastic. They also determined the number of individual polymers was present in the blood.

Three-quarters of the test subjects appeared to have plastics in their blood. The research was the first to prove that plastic particles can end up in the human bloodstream. 

Earlier indicators for this came from laboratory experiments. Various microplastics were detected in human stool, suggesting inadvertent ingestion from different sources. In this study, scientists show that people absorb microplastics from their environment in their everyday lives and that the amounts are measurable in their blood.

The overall concentration of plastic particles in the blood of the 22 donors amounted to an average of 1.6 µg/ml. A quarter of the tested donors had no detectable quantities of plastic particles in their blood.

Ecotoxicologist Heather Leslie said“We have now proven that our bloodstream, our river of life, has plastic in it. This dataset is the first of its kind and must be expanded to gain insight into how widespread plastic pollution is in humans’ bodies and how harmful that may be. With this insight, we can determine whether exposure to plastic particles poses a threat to public health.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Heather A.Leslie et al. Discovery and quantification of plastic particle pollution in human blood. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2022.107199

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