Microplastic found in human blood: What does this mean?
Microplastic found in the blood of 80% who tested
New research funded by the Dutch National Organisation for Health Research and Development and Common Seas, shows that microplastic is present in human blood. The implications of this are terrifying.
“We have a right to know what all this plastic is doing to our bodies.” ~Jo Royle, founder of the charity Common Seas.
We already know from research that we are ingesting microplastics on a daily basis.
However, evidence from the study at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands has revealed that these tiny pieces of plastic are even more insidious than previously thought.
What are microplastics?
There is no definitive definition for what constitutes a microplastic. However, in their study, Heather A Leslie et al use the term to mean “plastic particles up to 5 mm in dimensions with no defined lower size limit.”
Microplastic falls into two categories:
Primary, which includes plastics found in personal care products, industrial manufacturing and synthetic materials. They enter the environment in various ways including wastewater, spillage and abrasion during washing.
Secondary, which are the result of larger plastics breaking down. The resulting particles can get into soil, air, water and, it seems, us.
Plastic particles in our environment
Microplastics have found their way into all of the elements and we can already see the results.
Sealife, birds and animals have all been found to have plastics in their stomachs. Studies on humans have revealed microplastics in adult and baby faeces, indicating that we are ingesting them through food and drink. Worryingly, the amount found in babies was almost 10 times higher than in adults.
Microplastic found in human blood
Prof Dick Vethaak, who researched the Discovery and quantification of plastic particle pollution in human blood, found that in the group of adults studied:
- 80% of them carried microplastics in their bloodstream.
- 50% of plastics were identified as PET (drinks bottles, single-use plastic, etc)
- 1/3 were found to have polystyrene used in food packaging.
“It is certainly reasonable to be concerned,” ~ Prof Dick Vethaak,
Whilst the results cover only a small demographic, this is a breakthrough study that urgently needs more research to understand the full extent that microplastics could have on the human body. If plastic particles are able to travel through the bloodstream, then we need to understand what effect they are truly capable of and how well the human body can resist them.
In general, research suggests that children and infants are more vulnerable to particle pollution than adults, to which Vethaak says “that worries me a lot”.
The carcinogenic effects of microplastics are not yet clear, nor are the long term damage to major organs.
Microplastics: What can we do?
With plastic production set to double by the year 2040, it’s time to take action to stop the rise in plastic pollution.
Around 80 NGOs are currently petitioning the UK Government to invest £15M for research into microplastics and their effects on the population. Pressure on MPs and the Government to make meaningful changes to reduce the manufacture and sale of single-use plastics has never been more important.
How can I make a difference?
It might seem daunting to change to a plastic-free lifestyle. It’s hard to know which products to look for and which changes to make. Your local zero waste shop will have someone who is clued up and ready to help you make a start or you can check out our beginner's guide to going zero-waste.
Did you know…?
Truthpaste is 100% free of plastic packaging. We are committed to doing our bit to stop plastic pollution. Our glass jars are easily repurposed or recycled. We are doing our small bit to reduce the amount of plastic waste on the planet.
Heather A.Leslie Martin J. M. van Velzen, Sicco H.Brandsma, Dick Vethaak, Juan J.Garcia-Vallejo, Marja H.Lamoree, Discovery and quantification of plastic particle pollution in human blood, (2022) Environment International
Elisabeth S. Gruber et al, To Waste or Not to Waste: Questioning Potential Health Risks of Micro- and Nanoplastics with a Focus on Their Ingestion and Potential Carcinogenicity, (2022) Exposure and Health
www.zonmw.nl - research-and-results/microplastics-and-health/
A.D. Vethaak, J. Legler, Microplastics and human health, Science, (2021), pp. 672-674,
Damian Carrington, Microplastics found in human blood for first time, (2022)The Guardian
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