A group of scientists from the US has found microplastics and nanoplastics in different human organs for the first time.
To sample the human organs, scientists obtained organ tissues from tissue banks meant to study degenerative diseases, and the finding of the study is yet to be peer-reviewed.
In all the 47 sample organs tested, chemical compounds of microplastics or nanoplastics were traced in the lungs, spleen, liver, and kidney – organs most likely to collect these chemical compounds associated with plastic.
To ponder on the cause of such plastics ending up in the human system practically, the researchers developed methods to analyze the type of plastic ingested – including the polyethylene used in plastic bags and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used in plastic drinks bottles, some of the most commonly used plastics.
The researchers traced bisphenol A (BPA) in all the organ tissues they put under the microscope. BPA is hailed as a toxic substance known as “a reproductive, developmental, and systemic toxicant in animal studies.”
“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 research team, told the Guardian.
Small, microscopic have been earlier traced in unthinkable places like glaciers and kilometers deep ocean floors, apart from regular traces in aquatic animals and specimens of wildlife in forests.
Plastic particles, that spread in the open after getting rubbed off from larger disposed of plastics used widely, have been shown to cause severe health complications once ingested by organisms, thanks to the release of toxic chemicals and microbes they harbor.
Apart from the oblivious harms microplastic causes, there have been many apparent instances of marine animals chocking to death, sometimes strangled by disposed plastics and sometimes after consuming them mistaking as food.
For the first time, microplastics found in every human organ tested by a group of US scientists (Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash)
While microplastics (less than 5mm in diameter) and nanoplastic (less than 0.001mm) have been proven to cause severe health ailments in animals, their potential impact on humans is yet to be known, the Guardian reports.
“We never want to be alarmist, but it is concerning that these non-biodegradable materials that are present everywhere can enter and accumulate in human tissues, and we don’t know the possible health effects,” Varun Kelkar, of Arizona State University, US, said, who is also a part of the research.
Kelkar added, once more comprehensive data is obtained, further ‘epidemiological studies’ on the same field will be conducted to determine the health outcomes.
This is not the first time studies have signaled we are victims of plastic ingestion more than ever, previously, seafood samples from an Australian market revealed tiny remains of plastic in every item tested including farmed tiger prawns, farmed oysters, wild squids, wild crabs, and sardines.
“Considering an average serving, a seafood eater could be exposed to approximately 0.7 milligrams of plastic when ingesting an average serving of oysters or squid, and up to 30 mg of plastic when eating sardines, respectively,” lead author Francisca Ribeiro, a QUEX Institute Ph.D. student explained.
What was made to aid in daily life, has conveniently become one of today’s most pressing environmental concerns – plastic pollution!
In recent times, a blasting use of face masks, and hand gloves (often made with plastic-derived material) have already started to show up on the ocean floors.
It’s unfortunate these face masks and stuff are being used in billions in the wake of the pandemic and pose a threat of being ending up in oceans in more volumes.
With the end of World War II, plastic reliance took a major turn, nearly becoming one of humankind’s most fundamental inventions like the wheel. Interestingly, half of all the plastic ever manufactured, have been named in the last 15 years, National Geographic reports.
From a mere 2.3 million tonnes of plastic being churned out from factories in the 1950s, 448 million tons were being derived in 2015, and as per recent trends, it was predicted to double by 2050.
As of today’s tally from the 1950s, the UN estimates more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic produced, 60% of which will end up in landfills and natural environment.
Once escaped in the open, these plastics end up in the vast natural resources like the ocean and forests and continue to lurk for years after years, posing an existential threat to marine and wildlife.