Microplastics detected in human blood and breast milk
In recent years, scientists have discovered increasing amounts plastic particles in deep oceans, Arctic snow, drinking water, and even breast milk.
How’s that possible?
The answer lies in nearly 350 million tons of plastic being produced globally each year, and about 250,000 tons of plastic littering our oceans.
Precipitation cycles carry microplastics through the air, scattering them across the planet and situating them within natural food chains that comprise ecosystems. As a result, these durable particles have ended up just about everywhere, and scientists believe they’re not going away anytime soon.
Beyond deriving from plastic debris that has degraded into smaller pieces, microplastics have also been prominent in health and beauty products, such as certain cleansers and toothpastes. Microbeads, a type of microplastic, are a form of polyethylene plastic that easily passes through water filtration systems eventually posing a risk to aquatic life.
A recent study led by Stanford University researchers determined that blue whales consume up to 10 million pieces of microplastic daily, largely through the prey that they eat.
Environment International reported that traces of microplastics were discovered in 80 per cent of blood samples taken from 22 anonymized, healthy humans.
And researchers with Universita Politecnica della Marche found microplastics in 26 of 34 samples of breast milk, all collected from a randomized group of women.
But what are the dangers of all these microplastics?
Scientists don’t yet know. At least not fully.
The discovery shows the particles can travel around the body and may lodge in organs. The impact on health is as yet unknown. But researchers are concerned as microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory and air pollution particles are already known to enter the body and cause millions of early deaths a year.
With some plastic specks small enough to infiltrate cells and tissues, some studies have suggested a correlation to certain cancers and various health problems, especially with microplastics leading to levels of chemical toxicity.
As Nature reports, the potential dangers of ingesting microplastics depends on how quickly these particles travel through the human body – a factor that researchers are only beginning to study.
“Plastic production is set to double by 2040,” said Jo Royle, founder of the charity Common Seas. “We have a right to know what all this plastic is doing to our bodies.” Common Seas, along with more than 80 NGOs, scientists and MPs, are asking for he help of government support to research on the human health impacts, including microplastic on foetuses and babies, and on the immune system.
A recent study found that microplastics can latch on to the outer membranes of red blood cells and may limit their ability to transport oxygen. The particles have also been found in the placentas of pregnant women, and in pregnant rats they pass rapidly through the lungs into the hearts, brains and other organs of the foetuses.
Part of the article was reported by CTV News.