From the depths of the sea to the peaks of the mountains, people have spread the planet with tiny pieces of plastic. We have already absorbed these microplastic substances into our bodies — with some uncertain consequences.
Pictures of plastic pollution are familiar: tortoise stuffed with a shopping bag, water bottles washed on beaches, or the excellent “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” floating detritus.
Millions of tons of plastic are produced annually, mainly from fossil fuels, into the environment and then into smaller and smaller pieces.
“We did not think 10 years ago that there could be very small, invisible microplastics, and that they were all around us,” said Jean-Francois Ghiglione, a researcher at the Laboratory of Microbial Oceanography in France.
“And we never thought of finding them in a human body.”
Now scientific research is increasingly finding microplastic in other human organs — including “lungs, spleen, kidneys, and even the placenta,” Ghiglione told AFP.
It can be very shocking that we breathe through these particles in the air, especially the tiny fibers from synthetic materials.
“We know there are microplastics in the air; we know it’s all around us,” said Laura Sadofsky of Hull York Medical School in the U.K.
His team found polypropylene and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) in the lung tissue, identifying fibers from synthetic fabrics.
“It’s amazing how deep the lungs are and how big those particles are,” he told AFP.
In March, another study reported the first traces of PET found in the blood.
Looking at a small sample of volunteers, some scientists say it is too early to reach conclusions, but there is concern that the plastic in the bloodstream could be transferred to all organs.