Particles found in the tissues of 11 of the 13 operated patients, with polypropylene and PET being the most common.
Microplastic contamination lodged in the deepest parts of the lungs of living people has been discovered for the first time. Particles were found in almost all samples tested.
Scientists have claimed that microplastic pollution is now ubiquitous on the planet, making human exposure inevitable and meaning that “there is growing concern about the dangers” for health.
Tissue samples were taken from 13 patients undergoing surgery and microplastics were found in 11 cases. The most common particles were polypropylene, used in plastic containers and pipes, and PET, used in bottles.
Two previous studies had found microplastics at similarly high levels in lung tissue taken during autopsies.
People were already known to breathe in the tiny particles and consume them through food and water. Workers exposed to high levels of microplastics are also known to have developed illnesses.
In March, microplastics were detected for the first time in human blood, showing that the particles can pass through the body and lodge in organs. The health impact is still unknown. But researchers are worried because microplastics damage human cells in the lab, and particles from air pollution are already known to enter the body and cause millions of premature deaths a year.
These data represent an important advance in the field of air pollution, microplastics and human health.
The research, which has been accepted for publication by the journal Science of the Total Environment, used samples of healthy lung tissue from the vicinity of the surgical targets. Particles down to 0.003 mm were analyzed and spectroscopy was used to identify the type of plastic. He also used control samples to account for the level of background contamination.
More information: www.sciencedirect.com (English text).