(NewsNation) — Plastics in the world’s oceans have been a known problem for decades, and evidence of microplastics in all kinds of animal species is well-documented. But, for the first time, there’s proof that it’s in our bloodstreams, too.
Tons of tiny pieces of plastic wash across the world every day. Previous studies have detected microplastics in human placentas and stool samples. Now, scientists in the Netherlands have detected them in human blood.
“All the microplastics and nanoplastics we are exposed to, we inhale and we ingest, it’s so much plastic it can even enter our bloodstream,” Prof. Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, said.
A Dutch study on blood samples from healthy adults detected tiny plastic particles in 80% of people.
Tracing plastic types revealed the likely sources were drink bottles, food packaging and plastic bags, though these breakthrough findings still need more study.
“It doesn’t tell us too much about the risk yet,” Vethaak said. “We still have to understand what happens to these particles in our body, and do they travel to certain organs, do they accumulate there, are they eliminated by the bile of the kidney?”
Exposure to these microplastics is pretty much unavoidable.
Judith Enck, president of “Beyond Plastics,” an organization trying to stem the tide of plastic pollution, according to its website, said she’s not surprised by the findings of the study.
“Microplastics are everywhere,” Enck, a former regional director for the Environmental Protection Agency, said. “It’s in plastic water bottles that we drink water from. It’s in beer, it’s in honey, it’s in the air we breathe. It’s in the fish we eat.”
Experts say because this is a problem decades in the making, a reduction in plastic exposure won’t happen quickly.
Plastic is cheap for manufacturers, Enck said. And it doesn’t biodegrade, meaning billions of tons of the stuff is already out there, breaking down into microplastics and entering people’s bloodstreams.
“It’s not something that we can fix straight away or in a couple of years,” Vethaak said. “It’s something we have to deal with in the coming decades.”
Enck said people need to stop using so much plastic, particularly for food.
“By all means, never put plastic in the microwave with your food, and don’t even run it through the dishwasher, because there are concerns about the chemicals the additives leaching directly into the food,” Enck said.