Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Microplastics Found in Human Organs for First Time

Science
Microplastics Found in Human Organs for First Time
"There's evidence that plastic is making its way into our bodies," said Charles Rolksy, a scientist at Arizona State University. asuresearch / YouTube

By Krissy Waite

Bolstering activists' demands to reduce plastic pollution worldwide, Arizona State University scientists on Monday presented their research on finding micro- and nanoplastics in human organs to the American Chemical Society.


Greenpeace UK responded to the reporting on the study by calling to "massively reduce the amount of plastic" produced and used worldwide.

Microplastics are plastics that are less than five millimeters in diameter and nanoplastics are less than 0.001 millimeters in diameter. Both are broken down bits of larger plastic pieces that were dumped into the environment. According to PlasticsEurope.org, 359 million tons of plastic was produced globally in 2019.

Previous research has shown that people could be eating a credit card's worth of plastic a day; a study published in 2019 suggests humans eat, drink and breathe almost 74,000 microplastic particles a year. Microplastics have been found in places ranging from the tallest mountains in the world to the depths of the Mariana Trench. Plastic particles in wildlife have been shown to substantially harm entire ecosystems, especially marine organisms.

The Arizona State University scientists developed and tested a new method to identify dozens of plastics in human tissue that could eventually be used to collect global data on microplastic pollution and its impact on people. To test the technique, the scientists used 47 tissue samples from lung, liver, spleen and kidney samples collected from a tissue bank. Researchers then added particles to the samples and found they could detect microplastics in every sample.

These specific tissues were used because these organs are the most likely to be exposed to, filter or collect plastics in the human body. Because the samples were taken from a tissue bank, scientists also were able to analyze the donors' lifestyles including environmental and occupational exposures.

"It would be naive to believe there is plastic everywhere but just not in us," Rolf Halden, a scientist on the team, told The Guardian. "We are now providing a research platform that will allow us and others to look for what is invisible — these particles too small for the naked eye to see. The risk [to health] really resides in the small particles … This shared resource will help build a plastic exposure database so that we can compare exposures in organs and groups of people over time and geographic space."

The researchers found bisphenol A (BPA) in all 47 samples and were also able to detect polyethylene terephthalate (PET) — a chemical used in plastic drink bottles and shopping bags. They also found and analyzed polycarbonate (PC) and polyethylene (PE). These particles can end up in human bodies through the air or by consuming wildlife like seafood that has eaten plastic; or by consuming other foods with trace amounts of plastic from packaging.

The team also developed a computer program that converts the collected data on plastic particle count into units of mass and area.

"In a few short decades, we've gone from seeing plastic as a wonderful benefit to considering it a threat," Charles Rolsky, a member of the team, said in a press release. "There's evidence that plastic is making its way into our bodies, but very few studies have looked for it there. And at this point, we don't know whether this plastic is just a nuisance or whether it represents a human health hazard."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

For World Wildlife Day, seven "Champions of Nature" shared their picks for books that motivate them. Sam Edwards / Getty Images

By Kimberly Nicole Pope

During this year's Davos Agenda Week, leaders from the private and public sectors highlighted the urgent need to halt and reverse nature loss. Deliberate action on the interlinked climate and ecological crises to achieve a net-zero, nature-positive economy is paramount. At the same time, these leaders also presented a message of hope: that investing in nature holds the key to ensuring economic and social prosperity and resilience.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Protesters are seen during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, DC on June 1, 2017. Paul J. Richards / AFP / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

While some mainstream environmental organizations welcomed Tuesday's introduction of the CLEAN Future Act in the House of Representatives, progressive green groups warned that the bill falls far short of what's needed to meaningfully tackle the climate crisis—an existential threat they say calls for bolder action like the Green New Deal.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A hiker looking up at a Redwood tree in Redwoods State Park. Rich Wheater / Getty Images
By Douglas Broom
  • Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
  • Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
  • Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
  • Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.

They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.

Read More Show Less
A female condor above the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County, California. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

One environmental downside to wind turbines is their impact on birds.

Read More Show Less
Kentucky received record-breaking rainfall and flooding this past weekend. Keith Getter / Getty Images

Kentucky is coping with historic flooding after a weekend of record-breaking rainfall, enduring water rescues, evacuations and emergency declarations.

Read More Show Less