By Kuhu Bhattacharya
We are all well aware of the main constituents of our blood, namely, red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and blood platelets (thrombocytes). However, a new study conducted by Dutch scientists has concluded that there is one more addition to the member of this family: Microplastics.
Microplastics are extremely small pieces of plastic debris in the environment that are formed from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste. They come from a variety of sources, including from larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller pieces. A type of microplastic called microbeads is a very tiny piece of manufactured polyethylene plastic that is added as an exfoliant in health and beauty products. These tiny particles can easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in water bodies posing a potential threat to aquatic life, and now, human life.
Scientists have analyzed blood samples from 22 anonymous donors, all healthy adults, and found plastic particles in 17. More than half the samples contained PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, which is commonly used in drinks bottles, while a third contained polystyrene, used for packaging food and other products. A quarter of the blood samples contained microbeads and a small percentage of Polypropylene, a thermoplastic polymer, was also found.
The leading cause of the presence of microplastics is due to pollution - air, land, water, and mainly plastic. As the production of plastic is increasing, so will the number of microplastics. Fruit and vegetable microplastic contamination occurs when plants pull water contaminated with microplastics via their roots. On consumption, these enter our bodies. Microplastics in blood can cling to the outer membranes of red blood cells, limiting their ability to carry oxygen.
As a variety of interferences and non-plastic particles could be present in each blood sample, it is important to develop methods that can confirm both the polymer types and the concentrations present.
This groundbreaking discovery has been made only recently thus the quest for the solution has only begun. All that we can do as informed citizens of the world is make conscious and informed choices about the products we choose to use and consume.
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