Microplastics in Our Blood? Environment International published Immunoplast - plastic particles found in blood samples from 22 healthy adults. Detail of hands showing microplastics on the beach By davidpereiras

In March, the scientific journal Environment International, published findings of Dutch research project Immunoplast, which for the first time found plastic particles in human blood samples taken from 22 healthy adult volunteers. The particles included both microplastic, which is defined as under 5 millimeters, and even smaller nanoplastic, which is less than 1 micrometer. But how could there be microplastics in our blood?

In a March 24 press release from VU Amsterdam, a Dutch research university where the study took place, shared details about the findings. They reveal that the five different polymers (the building blocks of plastic) that were tested for were found in three-quarters of the subjects, who most commonly displayed traces of three substances in particular: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyethylene, and polymers of styrene. The other quarter of the test subjects had no detectable plastic particles in their blood. 

These initial findings have already been featured in several online newsreels on channels such as Reuters (featuring an interview with one of the Immunoplast researchers, A. Diick Vethaak) and WION, where journalist Palki Sharma mentions that microplastics inhibit red blood cells’ ability to transport oxygen and that nanoplastics have been linked to infertility and brain cancer.

Frank Pierik, program manager of the project’s fund, preemptively quelled concerns, saying in a statement, “We need to realize that these are only the initial findings. There is still a long way to go before a proper risk assessment can be made.” 

Additional research, then, will be needed to establish how plastics from the blood are deposited into other tissues, and to quantify what kind of threat this may (or may not) pose to public health. 

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