You may know about plastic pollution in the ocean, but it turns out we can find the threat much closer to home. For the first time, scientists have found it in human blood samples. The study included 22 people, 17 of which (77%) had measurable amount of plastic in their blood. Experts estimate the average person eat 5 grams every week, about the amount in a credit card. Previous studies showed plastic particles in human feces but until now it was not known if they could cross into the blood stream.
The peer-reviewed journal Environment International published the results, which came to us via Smithsonian Magazine. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) was the most common type found. Half of the samples contained this plastic, used in water bottles and other food and beverage containers. Polystyrene, used in packaging like Styrofoam, was the second most common. It was found in 36% of blood samples.
The researchers developed methods to collect and study the blood that wouldn’t also contaminate it. This necessitated glass containers as well as purging the air in their equipment with nitrogen to push any plastic particles out. The scientists determined the total amount of each type of plastic in each sample. But because the analysis involved heating the blood, it is not possible to tell the size and number of individual particles.
While finding plastic in human blood is alarming, it is not actually surprising. We eat, drink, and breathe it every day. It is building up in our digestive system, organs, and blood. More research will tell us how much plastic is in our bodies and what health problems it could cause.
Environmental scientist Kurtis Baute made a video about how to avoid ingesting plastic. It requires giving up a lot of modern comforts. He also spent 24 hours without touching plastic, a feat that’s basically impossible in the modern world. It is in most home appliances, flooring, clothes, and food.
Scientists have found plastic everywhere they look for it. It is throughout the ocean food chain due to pollution. There are many programs working to remove plastic pollution from the environment and raise awareness. And now we know that it is throughout the human body. Maybe that will be the wake up call we need to reduce our reliance on plastic products.