Microplastics have been discovered in human gut and bloodstreams in small investigations. These minute plastic fragments come from various sources, including used tires, plastic bags, water bottles, and clothing. Since they absorb hazardous compounds, they might result in infections and digestive issues if swallowed. Microplastics are very little bits of plastic that contaminate our food, the oceans, and the air. Microplastics have been found in our bloodstream, although it is unclear how harmful this is for human health at this time.
What you need to know about how microplastics enter your bloodstream, the implications for your health, and how to prevent them is provided here.
WHY DO MICROPLASTICS EXIST? Microplastics, which are typically less than 5 millimeters in length and created when plastic items degrade in the environment, are defined by Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor , a board-certified medical toxicologist and co-medical director at National Capital Poison Center .
They typically originate from the plastic objects we discard, which wind up strewn throughout the land and oceans, where they are exposed to wind, sunshine, and water currents.
According to Johnson-Arbor, these environmental factors simply break down plastic into much smaller pieces because it doesn’t readily biodegrade.
Some of the major sources of microplastics, according to Dick Vethaak , a professor of environment and health at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, are as follows:
Materials for disposable packaging, such as plastic bags and containers synthetic fibers for clothes Vehicle tires Paints and coatings emissions from industries and factories some skincare products also contains microplastics on purpose to aid in skin exfoliation.
DO HUMAN BLOOD MICROPLASTICS EXIST? Because microplastics are so little, we ingest them without realizing it, according to Vethaak, who notes that there are growing reports of microplastic contamination in our drinking water, milk, food, and air.
In fact, according to one 2021 study , children consume more than 500 microplastic flecks daily, compared to roughly 900 for adults. The scientists also point out that this is just a preliminary estimate and that the true figures might be far higher.
A small percentage of the microscopic microplastics, known as nanoplastics, may be able to pass past the walls of your lungs and intestines and enter your bloodstream, according to Vethaak. Most of the microplastics we consume pass through our digestive tract and end up in our feces .
This was corroborated by very small 2022 study , which discovered microplastics in human blood. The risk to public health was recognised by the researchers.
IS CONSUME OF MICROPLASTICS SAFE? The specific health risks posed by microplastics are yet unknown to experts. According to Johnson-Arbor, in order to comprehend this, “we need more studies on how the human body processes and gets rid of microplastics.”
According to research by Animal studies and studies done on human cells , exposure to microplastics can have a harmful impact on one’s health by disrupting hormones and causing inflammation. However, Vethaak notes that it is difficult to apply these findings to people and exposures in the actual world.
According to experts, there are several major health issues that may be related to microplastics, including:
Microplastics can include toxic substances such as insecticides, heavy metals, and cancer-causing toxins. According to Johnson-Arbor, they can then introduce these harmful substances into your body and result in health problems. Problems with the digestive system: According to some research, patients with inflammatory bowel illness ingest more microplastics than other people. The microplastics might be a factor in AA11. Infections: According to Vethaak, harmful germs like bacteria can enter our bodies through the air we breathe or the food we eat. Build-up in your body: Vethaak thinks there’s a chance that microplastics could harm you after prolonged exposure. AVOIDING MICROPLASTICS According to Johnson-Arbor, “microplastics are pervasive in our surroundings, and it’s very much impossible for an individual to avoid them completely.”
You may reduce your exposure to microplastics, though, using a few strategies. Vethaak makes the following suggestions:
1. Steer clear of skincare items that have micro or nanoplastic beads in them. You may check your products to discover if they contain microplastics using the Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor 4 provided by the Plastic Soup Foundation in the Netherlands.
2. Ventilate your home or workplace frequently by turning on the air conditioner or opening the windows, as plastic particles have a tendency to build up significantly in interior house dust.
3. Invest in clothing made of natural materials, such as cotton or linen. When worn or washed, synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester can emit microplastics.
4. Use tempered glass or metal containers to heat food and beverages rather than plastic ones.
5. Steer clear of canned food Cans have a layer of plastic inside that could discharge dangerous chemicals and plastic fragments.
You can also make an effort to reduce the quantity of microplastics you release into the environment as a whole. According to Johnson-Arbor, you should:
1. When ordering takeout, request no disposable utensils and use your own utensils in their place.
2. Steer clear of water bottled in plastic. Bottled water has roughly twice as many microplastics as tap water, according to an Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor 5 study.
3. If you’re having an event like a BBQ, go with paper plates rather than plastic flatware. As an alternative to plastic, consider using bamboo utensils.
4. To prevent being provided single-use plastic containers for your leftovers, bring your own takeout containers to restaurants.
INSIDER’S OUTLOOK Human blood has been proven to contain microplastics, but we are still unsure of how they may affect our health.
However, there are certain causes for worry. While microplastics might not currently have any negative effects on our health, Vethaak predicts that they will most likely pose health problems to the environment, animals, and people over the next few decades.
Johnson-Arbor advises contacting poison control for help if you have concerns about the toxicity of plastic items. They can be reached by phone at 1-800-222-1222 or online at Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor 6.