The latest research study published on Environment International it shouldn't be surprising. After all, from the mountainous regions to our innermost organs, virtually no place on Earth is free of microplastics.
Yet knowing that they permeate our own bloodstream brings a new awareness of how much plastic waste has become an expanding ecological issue. More: a threat of species.
Researchers from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Amsterdam University Medical Center examined blood samples from 22 healthy and anonymous donors for traces of common synthetic polymers with a diameter greater than 700 nanometers.
There is plastic in our bloodstream
After extensive efforts to keep their equipment clean of pollutants and to test the background levels of the polymers, 17 samples were compared using two separate approaches to identify the chemical composition and masses of the particles.
The researchers found that the microplastics included the polyethylene terephthalate (PET), commonly used in clothing and beverage bottles, as well as styrene polymers, often used in vehicle components, carpets and food containers.
The average amount of plastic in the blood was 1,6 micrograms per milliliter, with the densest being over 7 micrograms.
The researchers were unable to provide an accurate breakdown of particle size in the bloodstream. This is a limitation of the test methods used. It is reasonable to conclude that particles smaller than 700 nanometers would be more easily absorbed by the body than those larger than 100 micrometers.
What does this mean for our health?
There is still a lot we don't know about the chemical and physical effects of the tiny plastics found in our bloodstream. Some Animal Studies suggest very worrying results, but interpreting their results in a human health context is difficult.
However, the problem is getting worse. Plastic waste is projected to double by 2040. As all abandoned shoes, forks, bread labels, chocolate wrappers degrade over time, more microplastics will be absorbed through our diet.
It is also possible that at some point we will cross a threshold. Beyond this threshold, small doses of styrene and PET in the bloodstream will have detrimental effects on the growth of our cells, especially during development.
"We also know in general that the babies and young children they are more vulnerable to exposure to chemicals and particles, "he tells the Guardian Dick Vethaak, ecotoxicologist at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. "And that worries me a lot."
Always bearing in mind the small number of volunteers involved in the study, this is however further proof that the dust of ours "little synthetic world" it is not completely filtered out of our lungs and stomach.
One concern above all: Does this plastic just float in our bloodstream or is it swallowed by white blood cells? Each scenario would have an impact on how particles move and which body systems might suffer most.
Much more studies are needed on a larger and more diverse group of individuals, of course. They will serve to determine how and where microplastics move and accumulate in people, as well as how our body eliminates them.