"A breakthrough result": Microplastics found in human bloodstream

Amsterdam, Netherlands - Plastic is everywhere, from the highest peaks, to our planet's oceans, to the air high above us. But now, researchers found tiny particles of plastic in people's blood.

Microplastic just gets everywhere, even into our bloodstream.
Microplastic just gets everywhere, even into our bloodstream.  © Imago / Westend61

A new study published in Environmental International discovered that 80% of people tested had microplastic in their bloodstream.

The study, which tested 22 different donors blood samples, found a variety of plastics in 17 of the participants' samples, some as small as .00002 inches, which isn't a lot larger than red blood cells.

PET, the kind of plastic found in bottles, was in half of the tested blood, a third of the samples had food packaging plastic, and polyethylene, which goes into plastic bags, was in a fourth of the samples.

3D genome extracted from "freeze-dried" woolly mammoth
Science 3D genome extracted from "freeze-dried" woolly mammoth

One author on the study, ecotoxicologist professor Dick Vethaak of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, told the Guardian that the findings raise plenty of big new questions.

"The big question is what is happening in our body? Are the particles retained in the body?" he asked.

"Are they transported to certain organs, such as getting past the blood-brain barrier? And are these levels sufficiently high to trigger disease? We urgently need to fund further research so we can find out."

"Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood – ​it’s a breakthrough result," Prof Vethaak told the Guardian, and he also noted that there are already more studies taking place to find out what effect microplastics in our bloodstream could have.

The UN's Plastic Pollution Treaty, expected to be finalized in 2024, could help reduce the amount of plastics in our environment, which in turn would mean fewer microplastics down the road.

Cover photo: Imago / Westend61

More on Environment and Climate: