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Explained: Microplastic Found In Blood Veins, Says Study; What Does It Mean?

A new study, published in the journal Plos One, suggests microplastics can pass through blood vessels to vascular tissue. However, scientists are yet to determine the severity of the health implication arising out of the same.

This Jan. 19, 2020 photo shows microplastic debris that has washed up at Depoe Bay, Ore.
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Microplastics used in food packaging and paints have been discovered in human veins raising questions over the severe health implications on human health. The tiny pieces of mostly invisible plastic have already been found almost everywhere else on Earth, from the deepest oceans to the highest mountains as well as in the air, soil and food chain.

A new study, published in the journal Plos One, suggests microplastics can pass through blood vessels to vascular tissue. However, scientists are yet to determine the severity of the health implication arising out of the same.

What does the study suggest?

A team from the University of Hull and Hull York Medical School along with researchers from the Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust analysed the pilot study that was conducted after examining human saphenous vein tissue from a patient undergoing a heart bypass surgery. 

They found 15 microplastic particles per gram of vein tissue and five different polymer types in the tissue.

According to a report by the Independent, the most prominent included alkyd resin – found in synthetic paint, varnishes and enamels; polyvinyl acetate (PVAC) – an adhesive found in food packaging and nylon; and EVOH and EVA – used in flexible packaging materials.

The study further showed the levels of microplastics observed were similar to, or higher than, those reported for colon and lung tissues.

What have researchers said?

Professor Jeanette Rotchell, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Hull expressed his surprise at the discovery. He said that although he was aware of the discovery of microplastic in human blood from a study published previous year but he did not know that they could seep into human veins. 

“But it was not clear whether they could cross blood vessels into vascular tissue and this work would suggest they can do just that. Whilst we don’t yet know the implications of this on human health, what we can say is that from studies using cells grown in dishes, they cause inflammation and stress responses,” he said, according to a report by The Independent.

Professor Mahmoud Loubani, a co-author and Honorary Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, added that the presence of these microplastics in the veins may well play a role in damaging the inside of the vein leading to it becoming blocked with the passage of time.

He emphasised that there was a need to identify a correlation between and find ways to remove the specs of these plastics. 

Previous study 

In March, last year, a Dutch study published in the Environment International journal examined blood samples from 22 anonymous, healthy volunteers and found microplastics in nearly 80 per cent of them.
Following the study, scientists warned that the ubiquitous material could soon penetrate human organs.

According to a report by AFP, half of the blood samples showed traces of PET plastic, widely used to make drink bottles, while more than a third had polystyrene, used for disposable food containers and many other products. The study said the microplastics could have entered the body by many routes: via air, water or food, but also in products such as particular toothpastes, lip glosses and tattoo ink.

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