Find out how to protect yourself in a world made of microplastic
Plastic is all around us. From the always-overflowing recycling bin in the corner of your kitchen, or the overwhelming amount of plastic waste lining our coastlines, to the teeny tiny microplastics that leech into our laundry water, this man-made material has permeated every aspect of our lives … including us. Considering the ubiquity of plastic, perhaps it comes as no surprise that microplastics—fragments of plastic less than five millimeters in size—are passing through you. These fragments originate from the food we eat, the water we drink, and even the air we breathe. In fact, one study estimates that the average American consumes around 50,000 plastic particles each year.
However, for the first time, a biomonitoring study found that plastic isn’t just passing through us … it’s staying in us. Researchers in the Netherlands found that 80 percent of study participants had absorbed plastic particles into their bloodstream.
It's disconcerting that little, unseen bits of the plastic products we use or encounter daily can dislodge and find their way into our bodies. However, it’s even more unsettling that they can then be absorbed—along with any chemicals they contain—into the circulatory system. They’re then distributed alongside oxygen and essential nutrients throughout our bodies.
It’s currently not known what percentage makes it into the bloodstream compared to the amount we consume, but we do know that the speed of absorption is faster than the body’s ability to excrete these particles as waste, allowing for buildup.
To come to this conclusion, blood from 22 healthy adults was collected. Researchers then conducted tests to measure for known byproducts that are produced as specific plastics break down under increased temperatures.
Five main, high-production polymers were found, which included
This small study shows that plastics are being absorbed into human blood. However, more studies need to be conducted to find out what this really means for us. That is, to determine how, or if, microplastics affect our health, and what this looks like long-term.
In the meantime, there are several ways to limit plastic exposure in our day-to-day lives. Here are just a few to get you on the right track: