Research from the Netherlands suggests microplastic particles are absorbed into the bloodstream upon exposure.
In March, the first academic research was published in Environment International on the detection of microplastics in human bloodstreams. According to Dr. Heather A. Leslie and other researchers, there has been no development of a human health risk assessment (HRA) for pollution related to plastic particles as a consequence of minimal data related to exposure to humans and hazards related to toxicology, making this study even more important.
Microplastic has not been universally defined, but it seems that it refers most commonly to small plastic particles under 5 millimeters in size. Particles of plastic have been previously identified in the feces of babies at a 10 times higher rate than adults due to the plastic bottles used for their feeding. In the research that has been done so far, the question has often been asked to what extent these particles have an effect on the human body, and if the body does take in the particles upon exposure.
There is clear evidence that humans consume microplastic particles, but no study has been previously conducted on whether the particles enter someone’s bloodstream. Now we have preliminary research from the Netherlands that suggests this does occur to some extent.
The research team obtained blood samples from 22 anonymous adult volunteers whose bodies were in healthy condition and who had not been fasting up to the time of sampling. All the samples were tested for any sort of background contamination before being analyzed as well as other methods of data quality control such as duplicating the analysis to ensure accurate results.
The new methodology used in this study is revolutionary given that so much medical equipment today is manufactured using plastic materials, yet these scientists were able to collect and analyze all of their samples without using any plastic equipment that could cause contamination. Although more tests are needed to confirm the results of the new methods these scientists used, they found evidence of microparticles from at least four different types of common plastics in the samples from 17 out of their 22 subjects, an alarming 77.3% of the group.
In an interview with Medical News Today, Prof. Tamara Galloway said, “Human biomonitoring methods for measuring plastics additives have been available for several years […] But measuring microplastics, especially at the small size that would likely circulate in blood vessels (<7 microns), is very hard. This paper is good news because it describes a method that is sensitive enough to do this in blood samples and combines size fractionation and mass measurements.” The question now is where the microplastic goes once it is in the human body’s bloodstream. Does it have a significant impact on organs? What sort of immune response occurs to microplastic exposure? The report itself is very clear that further research is necessary to understand the implications, stating, “The fate of plastic particles in the bloodstream needs further study to answer questions regarding the potential accumulation in the general population and exposed workers, the environmental factors contributing to the internal exposure and toxicological and human health effects that may result from different scenarios.”