Microplastics in human blood pose a health risk

For many years, scientists have been concerned about the possible harmfulness of microplastics. In a new study, researchers have developed a method to detect microplastics in human blood. The scientists found microparticles of four common plastics in the blood samples of 17 of 22 healthy adults.
Further research could determine whether the presence of microplastics in the blood affects health.

Plastics are everywhere. Although much can be recycled in theory, much of it ends up in landfills or, worse, in waterways and marine ecosystems. Many people are all too familiar with the harrowing images of turtles and dolphins trapped in plastic bags or fishing nets. But there is a less visible effect: microplastics, tiny plastic particles formed during the breakdown of plastics and the manufacture of commercial products.

Several studies have highlighted the presence of plastic in the human body. A revelation came after scientists detected plastic additives such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates in human urine. Researchers have also found microplastics in human feces. However, to date, no published study has directly examined the presence of microplastics in human urine. In a new study published in the journal Environment International, researchers in the Netherlands have developed a method to test human blood for microplastics. They then used this method to test the blood of 22 healthy volunteers.

Tiny plastic particles in urine

Microplastics are grains of plastic. By definition, they measure less than 5mm in all dimensions, but many are invisible to the naked eye. There are two types of microplastics: primary microplastics and secondary microplastics. The former are the particles used in some cosmetics, while the latter come from the breakdown of larger plastic items.

Most concerns about microplastics initially focused on their effects on the marine environment, as they are found in oceans around the world. Many marine organisms, such as fish and shellfish, have been found to contain microplastics. It is very likely, given the prevalence of microplastics in the air, water, flora and fauna, the food chain, that they also enter the human body, but technical difficulties in measuring microplastic particles in the human body have made it difficult its detection. »ect them so far.

An innovative detection method

For this study, the researchers looked for particles that could be absorbed through the membranes of the human body. They filtered the blood to collect all plastic particles between 700 nanometers (nm) and 500,000 nm. To prevent plastic pollution, the researchers used fiberglass filters.

The researchers looked at five common plastics:

– poly(methylacrylate) (PMMA), used in dentistry and other medical applications
– polypropylene (PP), commonly used for packaging and textiles
– polymerized styrene (PS), used for lightweight packaging
– polyethylene (PE), the most common plastic, used among other things for transport bags
– polyethylene terephthalate (PET), widely used in textiles and food and beverage packaging.

Filter samples were treated by double-shot pyrolysis to produce chromatograms from which scientists could identify the contents. Human biomonitoring methods for measuring plastic additives have been available for several years. But measuring microplastics, especially at the small size that would likely travel through blood vessels (<7 microns), is very difficult. The researchers therefore developed a method that is sensitive enough to do this in blood samples and combines size fractionation and mass measurements.

Plastic in most blood samples

More than three-quarters of the blood samples contained a quantifiable mass of plastic particles. The researchers found PET, from which most beverage bottles are made, in the blood of more than half of those tested. They did not detect PP in any of the samples. Researchers have found at least three different types of plastic in some blood samples.
Professor Galloway was not surprised by these results:

Possible health effects

The researchers suggest several ways the plastics may have entered the bloodstream: through the air, food, water, personal care products like toothpaste and lip gloss, dental polymers, and dental residue. tattoos ink. It’s not clear what happens to microplastics once they enter the bloodstream.

In vitro studies have shown the effects of microplastics on cells. A recent study from Germany revealed that microplastic particles can destabilize lipid membranes, the barriers that surround all cells, which can affect their function. Another study found that microplastics had many effects on cells, including cell death.

As the current study is based on a sample of just 22 people, the authors emphasize the need for more research: “It remains to be determined whether plastic particles are present in plasma or transported by specific cell types. However, they believe that “it is scientifically plausible that plastic particles can be transported to organs through the bloodstream. The effects they may have on organs are still unknown.


Discovery and quantification of contamination by plastic particles in human blood

Microplastics in fish and shellfish and the implications for human health

Microplastics can deform cell membranes and affect their function

A rapid review and meta-regression analysis of the toxicological impacts of microplastic exposure on human cells.

* The information and services available on pressesante.com are in no way a substitute for consultation with competent healthcare professionals.

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