We've all heard about the massive amounts of microplastics that have been discovered – and continue to amass – in the world's oceans. Now, new research has brought the problem closer to home.
In the first study of its kind, scientists found microplastic contaminants in the blood of a significant majority of the people they tested. In the study, plastic particles were found in 17 of the 22 healthy adults tested, or nearly 80%. PET plastic, found in plastic bottles, was the most common type, followed by polystyrene (found in food packaging) and polyethylene (found in plastic bags).
While it is as yet unknown exactly what microplastics can do to the human body, they are known to be capable of lodging in organs and have damaged cells in laboratory tests. Professor Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, said that while the results are troubling, the real fear might be what is happening to infants. “We also know in general that babies and young children are more vulnerable to chemical and particle exposure,” he said. “That worries me a lot.”
Big little dangers:
- Microplastics have been discovered in some of the most remote locations on Earth, such as the Mariana Trench.
- About 85% of the microplastics found in the oceans originate from synthetic fibers used to make cheap clothing.
- While a study found that 83% of tap water in metropolitan areas contained microplastics, the rate was 10% higher in bottled water.