A Dutch study published in Environment International indicates that for the first time microplastics have been detected in the human blood of almost 80% of the people tested. Scientists in the study have discovered that these tiny particles can travel through the body and lodge in organs. The overall concentration of microplastics in the blood amounted to an average of 1.6 micrograms per milliliter.
The damage of microplastics in blood is something that is not yet 100% known, among the scientific community it is believed to be something that could be alarming. The reason they think so is that they have observed, in the laboratory, that these particles cause damage to human cells. Researchers need to study more about the existence of plastic in the bloodstream to determine what the actual risk is.
Professor Dick Vethaak, one of the authors of the study, explains to The Guardian what are the big questions to be resolved on this issue. “What is happening in our body? How much plastic is too much for the body? Are the particles retained in the body? Where do they end up? Can they be eliminated? Are they retained in certain organs?”. Vethaak explains the need to fund more research to find out.
What we did know, due to the analysis of feces from babies and adults, is that people consume these microplastics through food, water and that we also inhale them since these particles are present in air pollution. In other words, we eat, drink and breathe plastic and this happens everywhere in the world.
Vethaak also explains that infants, girls and boys are more vulnerable to exposure to chemicals and particulates. The professor explains how in previous work they had found 10 times higher amounts of microplastics in the feces of infants than in adults, apparently due to the utensils with which they are fed.
BUT WHAT ARE MICROPLASTICS?
Microplastics are small pieces of plastic material that pollute the environment. Currently, there is no determined size from which to consider them microplastics, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration establishes the classification that would be pieces of less than 5 mm in diameter.
They come from a wide variety of sources such as industrial processes, cosmetic and personal hygiene products, cleaning products, synthetic textile clothing, everyday plastic waste, tires, plastic granules, dust from cities, etc. It is estimated that humans have produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic since 1950.
They are difficult to degrade, are toxic, abrasive and very difficult to treat in sewage treatment plant filtration due to their size. Therefore, these highly polluting particles end up in rivers, seas and oceans, causing serious damage to the natural environment, animals and human beings all over the planet.
The WHO has been warning for years about the importance of taking this issue seriously and now microplastics have already reached our bloodstream. England and the United States were the forerunners in banning many of the cosmetics, personal hygiene products and detergents that included microplastics in their formulas, and have been followed by Canada, Sweden, France and Belgium with bans and regulations.
20 STEPS TO AVOID MICROPLASTICS
The UN proposed 20 measures in 2019 that could help reduce plastic and microplastic pollution and they are as follows:
- Use biodegradable toothbrushes.
- Use natural fiber floss.
- Avoid using Teflon-coated nonstick pans.
- Avoid using disposable plastic razors.
- Use hair products that do not contain plastic ingredients.
- Use cosmetics that do not contain microparticles.
- Use cotton, organic cotton or hemp fiber towels.
- If you fish, do not forget to pick up the nets and nylon threads and hooks.
- Avoid balloons at parties and celebrations.
- Do not use glitter.
- Carry a reusable bottle with you.
- Keep a few reusable bags at home, at work and in your backpack.
- Use a reusable cup for coffee or tea.
- Carry your lunch in reusable containers.
- Bring your own cutlery so as not to buy single-use.
- Opt for natural fabrics and textiles and reduce the amount of synthetic fabrics.
- Use less aggressive cleaning products and detergents.
- Recycle the plastic you use.
- Do not throw waste in the streets.
- Be proactive and assume our own responsibility. Reducing plastic pollution requires a great deal of involvement on the part of governments and companies, but individually we can contribute.