in 2018″microplastics» Voted Word of the Year by Fundeu and provided the following definition: “Plastic pieces less than five millimeters already produced in this size or fragmented from a larger plastic”.
The choice was not accidental, as an investigation carried out in the same year by the Austrian Federal Environment Agency and the Medical University of Vienna led to a very important finding: microplastics found in human fecesThis confirmed that these particles went from the food chain to the digestive system of the population.
This research was designed as a pilot and modest study aiming to explore a growing problem about which still little is known, and above all to see what impact it might have on human health. The results were huge.
Feces containing microplastics
The researchers recruited eight participants, five women and three men, aged 33 to 65 years, from various European countries, Japan and Russia. For a week, they wrote a diary about their diet, which should be as usual, along with noting how the products they ate were packaged. The individuals in the experiment then donated a sample of their feces.
researchers Nine different types of plastic found between 50 and 500 microns10 grams of stool contains an average of 20 particles. Among them were polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate, two plastics commonly used in packaging, containers or textiles.
“We have the first evidence of microplastics in humans and we need more research to understand what this means for human health,” said lead researcher Dr Philipp Schwabl.
A fact in line with the cause-effect relationship with the 2018 balance of the European Commission titled ‘European Strategy for plastics in the circular economy’. According to that report, World plastic production has increased twenty-fold since 1960, reaching 322 tons in 2015, and is expected to double in the next 20 years.
Moreover, in the European Union alone, approximately 25.8 million tons of waste is generated annually from this material, of which less than 30% is collected for recycling. A significant portion of this amount leaves the EU to be invested in third countries with less stringent environmental laws.
Previous work as published in the journal Royal Society In 2017 they had already confirmed that the seafloor had become “plastic soups”. millions of fish swallowed this substance. Therefore, it was expected to reach people. through food or even something as simple as drinking water.
The backlog of scientific research confirming the presence of microplastics in the natural environment and in the human body has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to request a “comprehensive” study of actual exposure to these particles, and urged the international community to reduce plastic. pollution to try to protect the environment and reduce people’s exposure to these micro parts.
Again, It’s not just the plague of marine ecosystems, it affects almost every environment.. Thus, humans are exposed to these particles through the air, because suspended particles are inhaled while breathing; through the digestive tract, through water and ingested food, as well as through mucous membranes.
plastic in blood
We only have to look around to see that we are surrounded by plastic. Containers, clothing, bags, toothpaste, aprons, office supplies, disposable tableware, car wheels… common objects that degrade over time and eventually turn into microplastics.
It is a simple exercise often recommended by Spanish immunologist researcher Juan J. García Vallejo at the University of Amsterdam Medical Center. After learning that the presence of these micropolymers had been proven in human feces, they began analyzing whether these particles had passed indoors. It was. They’re in the blood too.
Polyethylene terephthalate, polyethylene, styrene polymers (polystyrene, expanded polystyrene, acetonitrile butadiene styrene, etc.) and polymethyl methacrylate. Four types of polymers were found in the blood of 22 random and unnamed volunteers, with a total average of 1.6 micrograms per milliliter of blood plasma.
It is not yet clear whether it is a dreadful figure, but the fact remains that it confirms what was feared: plastic is now present not only in feces, but also in blood.
The great novelty of this discovery, ironically, casts more doubt on the results. The most important of these is, for example, what the transition process of microplastics from air to blood is and what effects it has on the body.
Also in the lungs
However, the invasion of the human body by microplastics does not end there. Another team of researchers from the University of Hull and Castle Hill Hospital in England reported more in a paper published just weeks after the Netherlands’ research on microplastics in the bloodstream. In this case, scientists discovered the presence of tiny plastic particles in the lung tissue of living people, especially from patients at Castle Hill Health Center.
The team took 13 samples that were analyzed under a microscope. 12 different types of polymers were found in 11 of the shots studied by the researchers. It was also found that this situation affects men more.
In short, the course of events is clear: There has been (and is happening) a progressive increase in the daily use of plastic by the world’s population. This triggers a polymer invasion in natural ecosystems that causes degradation over time.
Therefore, there is an increased exposure of human and animal species to microplastics in the body, which has been shown specifically in the feces, lungs, blood, liver, kidneys and even the placenta.
The next part is to find out what consequences it will have (or already have) on the health of the population. The scientific community is already focused on this.
INTERVIEW. Juan J. García Vallejo
immunologist and researcher at the University of Amsterdam Medical Center
“There are microplastics in the air we breathe”
The ‘Immunoplast’ study developed at Amsterdam UMC confirmed the presence of microplastics in human blood. The results are now being investigated.
– Four very common types of plastics have been identified: polyethylene terephthalate, polyethylene, styrene polymers and polymethyl methacrylate.
-Plastic is used for everything because our life is surrounded by plastic. Take a look around: most of the things you own have these plastics in their composition. What causes these plastics to become microplastics? The passage of time, the effect of atmospheric factors, degradation by ultraviolet rays, breakage due to temperature changes… These plastics eventually break down into small pieces and become microplastics. Microplastics hang in the air, in food, in plants…
In their study, they concluded that there is a plastic particle concentration of 1.6 micrograms per milliliter in the blood. Worrying levels?
Their worry is something related to toxicity. Toxicity we don’t know yet. We know we have this exposure, now we need to determine the risk, and risk is the combination of exposure and toxicity. Personally I would prefer not to take that risk but I would have to live on the Moon because I think it would be impossible to live without microplastics. In the long run, if this is related to autoimmunity, cancer, allergies… There are many research groups working on this subject. And once we know that, I am optimistic that we will have the possibility to change the way the industry produces plastics because our society will not give up on plastic.
-This raises questions about all that remains to be discovered, and one of them is whether the presence of plastic can affect the immune system.
-And if it has any effect on the body, it will not be the only effect. We know that there are components in the plastic such as BPA (Bisphenol), a proestrogenic agent that is already present at detectable levels in the fetus and has an effect on the endocrine system. I’m sure it has neurological and immunological effects as well. And this is one of thousands of chemicals used in the synthesis of plastics. BPA has long been known to be toxic and its use is now banned, but other things are used, such as BPA’s sister molecules, BPB and PCB.
-22 volunteers, healthy and random people participated in the study. This results in the idea that the condition is generic, right?
They are found in the air we breathe. Frankly, a person working in a polyester t-shirt factory (a polymer we found in blood) knows he or she will be more exposed, and we think some of the occupational pathology at the respiratory level is respiratory-related. the microplastics they breathe.
-Do you think there will be a regression in the use of plastic?
-I think if we find that a polymer actually has a toxic effect, the immediate effect will be to replace that polymer with another polymer that doesn’t have it. I believe that the work we do has results. If we have been able to understand a disease as complex as Kovid in record time and have found an effective solution, I am sure we will find it too if we turn to plastic. I have no doubt. The only thing that worries me is what the industry has to say about it.
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