Articles claiming that microplastics have been found in human blood for the first time might be construed as "alarmist" or sensational. However, we find the claim to be true. Scientists from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have published a study in the peer-reviewed journal Environment International (March 24, 2022) which shows that microplastics were found in almost 80 percent of the small sample of people tested. The researchers found that four high production volume polymers applied in plastic were identified and quantified for the first time in blood. Polyethylene terephthalate, polyethylene and polymers of styrene (a sum parameter of polystyrene, expanded polystyrene, acetonitrile butadiene styrene etc. The scientists emphasize that more studies are required to determine if these substances in humans are associated with a public health risk. Researchers report the microplastics were likely inhaled or ingested before being absorbed into the bloodstream.
Previous studies have shown that people and animals were known to consume microplastics via food and water. They have also been found in the feces of babies and some adults, as this study in the Annals of Internal Medicine explains. A recent study in Environmental Health Perspectives even confirmed the presence of microplastics in the placenta and in newborns. A study recently published in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology reports that people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have more microplastics in their feces than healthy controls, suggesting that the fragments could be related to the disease process. As reported in Newswise in February, Tel Aviv University researchers found that in a marine environment, microplastics absorb and concentrate toxic organic substances and thus increase their toxicity by a factor of 10.
“Although a lot of research is being done on microplastics, studies on the health effects of these plastic particles are limited. This applies especially to the effects on children,” says Martin Wagner, an associate professor of biology at NTNU.
Read more on microplastics and other potentially harmful substances in the environment in the Pollution channel on Newswise.