Dutch university finds plastic particles in human blood

Plastic bottles in nature, animal news
Plastic bottles, photo: Mali Maeder via Canva

Scientists at a university in the Netherlands have found traces of microplastic in human blood, a new study in the journal Environment International on Thursday revealed.

Researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) took blood samples from 22 humans and tested them for five different types of plastic: polymethyl methacrylate, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate. Plastic particles were found in 17 of the participants.

“All the microplastics and nanoplastic we are exposed to, we inhale and we ingest…it can even enter our bloodstream,” Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at the VU, told news agency Reuters.

According to Vethaak, the effects of plastic particles in blood are still unknown. Further research into the health risks of the plastic particles in the bloodstream could take between “five to ten years.”

“What happens to these particles in our body? And do they travel to certain organs, too? Do they accumulate there? Are they eliminated by the bile or the kidney?” Vethaak mentioned as questions that further research should answer.

“You should be concerned, it shouldn’t be there, plastic particles don’t belong in your body, but at the same time, you have to understand we are exposed to so many particles and chemicals too,” he said.

“We can expect growing levels of microplastic exposure in the future. So it’s not something that we can fix straight away in a couple of years. It’s something we have to deal with in the coming decades. I think it’s one of the emerging environmental problems,” Vethaak added.

“We are already in a sort of transition where we go to more eco-friendly materials that don’t contain so many toxic compounds and release particles. But it’s a long way to go. You know that plastics are durable, they are very cheap materials,” Vethaak said.

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