Plastic pollution affects the entire planet and humans are no exception. For the first time ever, US researchers have confirmed the presence of micro and nanoplastics in human tissue. However, these plastics are found in different organs of our body.

Plastic in the human body

Various studies have shown that plastic pollution is found in oceans, rivers, mountains, ice floes and even plants. This also concerns animals and obviously humans. In 2019, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) published an edifying report. Humans individually ingest up to 2000 particles of microplastics per week – the weight of a credit card (5 grams). Over a lifetime, this represents around 20 kg!

During the study conducted by a team from Arizona State University, presented at the American Chemical Society Fall 2020 Virtual Meeting & Expo, the researchers observed micro and nanoplastics in human tissue for the very first time.

The study leaders analyzed 47 human organ samples. These samples came from a tissue bank for the study of neurodegenerative diseases. However, the scientists’ conclusions are very worrying. Micro and nanoplastics are found inside organs such as the liver, spleen, kidneys and even the lungs! While the study has yet to go through the peer review process, it confirms what many researchers have already hypothesized.

Identify health risks

Remember that plastic waste contains a host of chemicals. Some harmful effects on marine animals are already known. Regarding the potential toxicological risks for humans, epidemiological studies will have to prove the existing hypotheses. Long-term ingestion of plastic may increase the risk of cancer and infertility. It should be noted in passing that humans are exposed to this pollution via food, water and air.

As part of their study, the US researchers identified dozens of different plastics. These include polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make plastic bottles and bags. They also discovered the presence of bisphenol A (BPA), a substance whose presence in the body is currently underestimated. The study leaders discussed the next step in their research. It will be a question of analyzing the data provided by organ donors on their lifestyle, their diet and their profession and thus make a link with human health.

Erica Delaney

An experienced nurse, Erica focuses on subjects related to pregnancy and infant health. She enjoys dancing and playing the piano in her free time.