• Todd Petrella

Microplastics Are Everywhere, Including Your Blood

Updated: Apr 6


Microplastic on a fingertip

One thing that this blog has covered a lot is the pervasiveness of microplastics. These little bits of plastic particles are everywhere - the oceans, the environment, the air, and even our bodies. A recent study done at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands (and first reported by the Guardian) has found that microplastics have invaded our bloodstreams.


For those that don't know, microplastics are minuscule particles typically ranging from 1mm to 3 mm, but no more than 5mm in length. They are the result of large pieces of plastic breaking down in the environment via sunlight, a process known as photodegradation. Unlike organic biodegradable material, which breaks down naturally and completely into the environment, plastic just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, while also leaking poisonous chemicals into the soil and/or oceans.


Related: Mealworms? A Solution To Plastic?


Microplastics have been found in humans before, but whether or not this is harmful over the long run is up for debate. The study conducted at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam had scientists analyze blood samples from 22 donors, 17 of which were found with microplastics in them. 50% of these samples had PET plastic in them, the most common type of plastic used to make water and soda bottles. Other samples were found with polystyrene in them.

Microbeads - a type of microplastic found in personal hygiene products
Microbeads - a type of microplastic found in personal hygiene products

As of right now, the effects of microplastics in human bodies and blood is unknown, but researchers are concerned about how this could negatively affect the human body. There are a few different theories on what could happen. Some believe that the microplastics could build up in organs, while others are concerned that they could impact growth and development. An excess of microplastics have been found in baby poop, a 2021 study found. This is likely due to infants drinking from plastic baby bottles.


While this is definitely cause for concern, any actual negative effects of microplastics invading our bodies have not been found yet. However, what this means is that we likely have microplastics floating around all inside of us, in our bodies and our blood. If anything, this should spur us to move away from single use plastic products and move towards using reusable and sustainable products. The smallest bit helps, even if it means choosing to buy a reusable water bottle as opposed to a regular bottle.

 

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