AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Plastic contamination is something many people fear will destroy the environment, but a new study warns that it’s also polluting our bodies as well. Researchers in the Netherlands have found plastic particles in the human bloodstream for the first time ever.
Their results reveal that these microscopic particles coming from the environment around us are being absorbed by the body and are entering the blood supply. Study authors at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam examined 22 individuals who anonymously donated their blood for testing. The team scanned each sample for five distinct polymers — the building blocks of plastic.
Three-quarters of the group had plastic in their blood. This marks the first time scientists have discovered actual plastic substances in a live sample of human blood. Previously, scientists suspected that plastic was contaminating the human body but those findings came from lab experiments.
What kind of plastics are floating through our bodies?
Researchers found that the overall concentration of plastic in the human bloodstream averaged around 1.6 µg/ml. This is the equivalent of a teaspoon of plastic in 1,000 liters of water — or 10 large bathtubs.
While a quarter of the participants did not have any detectable signs of plastic in their blood, the remaining samples had several types including polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyethylene, polymers of styrene, and poly(methyl methacrylate).
“We have now proven that our bloodstream, our river of life as it were, has plastic in it,” research leader and ecotoxicologist Heather Leslie says in a university release.
“This dataset is the first of its kind and must be expanded to gain insight into how widespread plastic pollution is in the bodies of humans, and how harmful that may be. With this insight we can determine whether exposure to plastic particles poses a threat to public health,” adds analytical chemist Marja Lamoree.
The findings are published in the journal Environment International.