Microplastics Found In Human Blood For First Time, Researchers Concerned


Guwahati: Tiny particles of plastic, called microplastic – a major source of pollution – have been detected in the human blood for the first time. It was detected in nearly 80 per cent of samples tested by a group of researchers from the Netherlands. The discovery is extremely significant as it shows that microplastic can travel around the body and may lodge in organs. Though the scientists are not yet aware of the long term impact of these particles on health, but are concerned due to already rising pollution levels across the globe.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic less than 0.2 of an inch (5mm) in diametre.

The researchers analysed blood samples from 22 anonymous donors and found microplastic in 17 of them, according to the research published in the journal Environment International.

Half of these samples had PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), which is used to make drinks bottles. Polystyrene, widely used in food packaging, was found in 36 per cent and polyethylene, used in packaging films and bags, was found in 23 per cent of samples, according to the research.

The levels are low – 1.6 micrograms (1.6 millionths of a gram) in every millilitre of blood – but are enough to raise an alarm.

“It is certainly reasonable to be concerned. The particles are there and are transported throughout the body,” Prof Dick Vethaak, ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and lead author of the study, told The Guardian.

He said that the study has produced a “breakthrough result” but added that sample size and number of polymer researched will have to be increased.

According to the researchers, plastic particles can enter human body from air as well as through food and drink, The Independent reported.

The publication also spoke to Professor Vethaak, who said such particles can cause chronic inflammation.

“Good ventilation of the house is important because microplastic concentrations appear to be higher indoors than outdoors. I also cover my food and drinks to reduce the deposition of plastic particles,” the researcher added.

Earlier research found microplastics in brain, gut and placenta of unborn babies, but never before in human blood sample, according to The Daily Mail.

Plastic is one of the leading pollutants on the planet. Huge amounts of plastic waste are dumped from mountains to oceans. In January last year, microplastics were found in fish and other seafood samples from the Sal Estuary in Goa.

A study, led by senior scientist Dr Mahua Saha, indicated presence of microplastics in water, sediment and local animal and plant life from the estuary.