Microplastics Detected in Human Blood in New Study: Basics Explained


In a paper published in Environment International, researchers found plastic in the blood of 17 of 22 of study participants, or about 77 percent.                         Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), commonly used in disposable water bottles, was the most widely encountered plastic polymer and found in about 50 percent of the donors. The second most common, polystyrene (PS), which is used for food packaging and polystyrene foam, was found in about 36 percent, per the study.

There is no universal agreement on the size that fits this bill — the U.S. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the European Chemical Agency define microplastic as less than 5mm in length.


Single-use plastics, often also referred to as disposable plastics, are commonly used for packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These include, among other items, grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery. Such plastics are problematic because they are not biodegradable.


  • Since plastics belong to a chemical family of high polymers, they are essentially made up of a long chain of molecules containing repeated units of carbon atoms. Because of this inherent molecular stability (high molecular weight), plastics do not easily breakdown into simpler components.
  • Due to the non-biodegradable nature of plastic, it is quite dangerous to make our environment polluted with plastics as it will not break down into simpler compound and get absorbed into the air water or soil as beneficial components.
  • Plastic will eventually photo-degrade, i.e. break down into smaller and smaller fragments by exposure to the sun. The photo-degradation process continues down to the molecular level, yet photo-degraded plastic remains a polymer. No matter how small the pieces, they are still and always will be plastic, i.e. they are not absorbed into or changed by natural processes. Plastic becomes microscopic, invisible, yet ever polluting waters, beaches, coasts, seafloor, being eaten by even tinier marine organisms, therefore entering the food chain insidiously and ineluctably.
  • In landfills, toxic chemicals from plastics drain out and seep into groundwater, flowing downstream into lakes and rivers.
  • Wildlife become entangled in plastic, they eat it or mistake it for food and feed it to their young, resulting in impaired movement and feeding, reduced reproductive output, lacerations, ulcers and death.
  • Coral reefs which are actually living growing organisms are also affected fatally. Plastic debris causes physical breaking off and suffocating of these coral reefs by not allowing sunlight to reach them.
  • Ecosystem changes as species are wiped out and alien species take over adapting to the environment.
  • Toxic chemicals leach out of plastic (bisphenol-A or BPA,phthalates.) and are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.

Plastic is a petroleum product; to truly divest from fossil fuels, we must reduce our collective plastic footprint. More and more awareness and preventive programs need to be promoted which should ultimately leads us toward better choices in term of consumption and waste management of plastic at an individual level.



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