Doctors in China say they found microscopic plastics in human heart tissue, and the effect on human health is unknown
Microplastics have been found in human heart tissue for the first time, raising new concerns about their impact on long-term health.
The CDC defines microplastics (MPs) as being smaller than 5 mm, with nanoplastics (NPs) measuring smaller than .001 mm. They are created when “bottles, clothing, tires, and packaging break down in the environment. From those sources, MPs and NPs can be transported into streams and seas, carried into the air, and fall with rain.”
But a team from China discovered the presence of the microplastics after examining tissue samples from 15 cardiac surgery patients.
While it's possible that exposure to microplastics could have occurred during surgery, said the doctors, the presence of the chemicals — including acrylic, or Plexiglass — provide "direct evidence of microplastics in patients undergoing cardiac surgery.”
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The Washington Post said, “When you eat a bite of food or even have a sip of water, you’re almost certainly taking in tiny plastic particles along with it.”
But microplastics don’t only enter the body through food, according to a 2020 study. “The entry point may be through ingestion (through contaminated food or via trophic transfer), through inhalation, or through skin contact.”
And while the full impact on human health is still unknown, “effects may potentially be due to their physical properties (size, shape, and length), chemical properties (presence of additives and polymer type), concentration, or microbial biofilm growth,” the study noted.
Microplastics have been shown to damage human cells in laboratory tests, an extensive National Geographic report said.
And one researcher compared microplastics to smoking.
“By the time we got enough evidence to lead to policy change, the cat was out of the bag,” Albert Rizzo, the American Lung Association’s chief medical officer, told National Geographic. “I can see plastics being the same thing,"
“Are the plastics just simply there and inert or are they going to lead to an immune response by the body that will lead to scarring, fibrosis, or cancer?”
“We know these microplastics are all over the place," Rizzo said. "We don’t know whether the presence in the body leads to a problem. Duration is very important. How long you are exposed matters.”
"In the meantime," he asked, "can we make plastics safer?”
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