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Plastic is everywhere, including our bloodstreams

June 10, 2022

Plastics are ubiquitous in the developed world, and scientists have long known that humans breathe and inadvertently eat microscopic fragments – equivalent, by one account, to a credit card’s worth plastic every week. Now, for the first time, Dutch researchers have proved micro- and nanoplastic particles from the environment end up in the human bloodstream. It’s the latest discovery affirming the importance of human biospecimens in advancing medical progress.

A team led by scientists at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam developed an analytic method for detecting trace-level plastic particles in the blood, according to a university news release. They applied the test to blood drawn from 22 anonymous donors, revealing that three-quarters of the subjects appeared to have plastics in their blood – on average an amount equivalent to a teaspoon in 10 large bathtubs of water, the researchers wrote in the journal Environment International.

What harm can plastics do to you?

Though the measured quantity was relatively small, the next task is learning how much plastic gets into tissues and organs and what damage, if any, it causes. Previous research has found plastics in gut contents, feces, air, water, sediment, and food.

“This dataset is the first of its kind and must be expanded to gain insight into how widespread plastic pollution is in the bodies of humans, and how harmful that may be,” says analytical chemist Marja Lamoree.  “With this insight we can determine whether exposure to plastic particles poses a threat to public health.”

One way to learn more about the prevalence of plastics and other foreign substances in the body is by analyzing blood and other human biospecimens at scale. Research organizations can use the iSpecimen Marketplace to search, filter, select, and efficiently procure biofluids (as well as tissue and cells) filtered by collections by specific age, gender, race, blood type, BMI, smoking status, medical history, family history, and more. Blood products on the Marketplace include whole blood, plasma, serum, and buffy coats.

Plastics are ubiquitous, but let’s hope they’re rare and benign inside our bodies.

Learn about the iSpecimen Marketplace where you can browse millions of richly annotated, de-identified human tissue and biofluid biospecimens, in addition to hematopoietic and immune cell products and COVID-19 samples. You can join for free.