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Microplastic particles can now be found in human organs

Credit: Belga

Scientists have found a method to discover particles of microplastic and nanoplastic in human organs for the first time, according to research presented at the congress of the American Chemical Society on Monday.

The research, reported on by The Guardian, shows that scientists were able to find particles of microplastic (with a diameter smaller than 5 mm) and nanoplastic (with a diameter smaller than 0.001 mm) in all studied organs.

“It would be naive to believe there is plastic everywhere but just not in us,” Rolf Halden at Arizona State University told The Guardian.

The particles found in the 47 lungs, livers, spleens and kidneys examined were presumably ingested along with food and water.

In total, the scientists were able to discover dozens of types of plastic in the organs, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from which plastic drinking bottles are made and polyethylene, used for plastic bags.

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Although the plastic’s impact on our health has not been determined, the researchers are concerned. Research done in marine animals has found links between exposure to microplastics and infertility, inflammation and cancer.

“We never want to be alarmist, but it is concerning that these non-biodegradable materials that are present everywhere [may] enter and accumulate in human tissues, and we do not know the possible health effects,” Varun Kelkar of Arizona State University said.

The researchers hope that these results will lead to more in-depth research into the effect of pollution on our bodies. “Once we get a better idea of what’s in the tissues, we can conduct epidemiological studies to assess human health impacts,” he said. “That way, we can start to understand the potential health risks, if any.”

The chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which is mainly used in the production of plastics, was also found in all test samples.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is concerned about the presence of the substance because of its impact on the human body. Among other things, it can affect development and reproduction.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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