For the first-time, microplastic pollution was discovered deep in the lungs. The particles were detected in almost all of the samples tested.
According to scientists, microplastic pollution is now common across the globe, making human health more vulnerable.
The samples were taken from 13 patients who had undergone surgery. Microplastics were found in 11 cases. The most common microplastics were found in polypropylene (used in plastic packaging and pipes) and PET (used in bottles). Two previous studies revealed similar levels of microplastics in lung tissue collected during autopsies.
The tiny particles were known to be inhaled by humans as well as in food and water. It is also known that microplastics can cause disease in workers who have been exposed to high levels.
In March, microplastics were first detected in human blood. This shows that the particles can travel throughout the body and could lodge in organs. The impact on health is still unknown. Researchers are concerned that microplastics can cause damage to human cells in a laboratory. Air pollution particles have been shown to enter the body and cause millions upon millions of deaths each year.
Laura Sadofsky, a senior author of this study, stated that we didn’t expect to find the highest concentration of particles in the lower regions. It is surprising because the airways in the lower regions of the lungs are smaller. We would expect particles of this size to be trapped or filtered out before reaching this depth.
She said that this data is a significant advance in the fields of microplastics, air pollution, and human health. The information could be used in laboratory experiments to evaluate health impacts.
The research has been accepted. Publication by Science of the Total EnvironmentIt took samples of healthy lung tissue and placed them next to the surgical targets. It used spectroscopy to identify which type of plastic and analysed particles as small as 0.003mm. It also used control samples in order to account for background contamination.
A 2021 study Brazil on autopsy samplesMicroplastics were found in 13 of 20 people who were analysed. Their average age was higher that those who had been assessed by Sadofskys. The most common particle was polyethylene, which is found in plastic bags. These contaminants may cause adverse health effects in the respiratory system if inhaled, according to the researchers.
A US study of lung cancer patientsIn 1998, more than 100 samples were found to contain plastic and plant fibres (such cotton). 97% of samples from cancerous tissue contained the fibres, while 83% of samples from non-cancerous tissues were contaminated.
Plastic waste is a huge problem. It pollutes the entire planet, including the highest point of Mount Everest and the deepest oceans. Microplastics were found in the placentas and brains of pregnant women.
A recent ReviewIt was concluded that there is a high risk of cancer from micro- and nanoplastics. In particular, the exponential rise in plastic production makes it urgent to do more research.