by Conan Tait

Microplastics now in our blood

Should Waikanae Watch readers be concerned about their blood being invaded by microplastics? Is this going to prove more dangerous to our health than cigarette smoking. At least people chose to smoke. There is effectively no choice in how supermarkets wrap food, or what containers manufacturer’s use. Will it take a generation while we await a potentially horrendous outcome? In the long term will id be multiple times worse than Covid 9?

Microplastic pollution has been detected in human blood for the first time, with scientists finding the tiny particles in almost 80% of the people tested. The discovery shows the particles can travel around the body and may lodge in organs. researchers are concerned as microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory and air pollution particles are already known to enter the body and cause millions of early deaths a year.

The evidence shows huge amounts of plastic waste are dumped in the environment and microplastics now contaminate the entire planet, People  consume the tiny particles via food and water as well as breathing them in, and they have been found in the faeces of babies and adults.

The research published in the journal Environment International says. “Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood – ​it’s a breakthrough result,” said Professor Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit. Scientists analysed blood samples from  healthy adults and found plastic particles in 80%. Half the samples contained PET plastic, which is commonly used in drinks bottles, while a third contained polystyrene, used for packaging food A quarter of the blood samples contained polyethylene. “The particles are there and are transported throughout the body.” 

“The big question is what is happening in our body?” Vethaak said. “Are the particles transported to certain organs, such as getting past the blood-brain barrier? Are these levels sufficiently high to trigger disease? We urgently need to fund further research so we can find out.”

Another  recent study found that microplastics can latch on to the outer membranes of red blood cells and may limit their ability to transport oxygen. The particles have also been found in the placentas of pregnant women, and in pregnant rats they pass rapidly through the lungs into the hearts, brains and other organs of the foetuses.

A science paper published 22 March 2022, To Waste or Not to Waste: Questioning Potential Health Risks of Micro- and Nanoplastics with a Focus on Their Ingestion and Potential Carcinogenicity, states “There is evidence, that pollution through MNPs represents a health risk. It could be a health risk that may be irreversible, and the more plastic that is produced, the more the next generation will have to suffer its effects, which are not yet fully understood.”

New Zealand thought we were brilliant when supermarkets had to replace plastic bags, as if that is enough. Research , is urgently needed, particularly in light of the exponential increase in plastic production. The problem is becoming more urgent with each day say leading scientists. Will we idly stand by and happily have our children and grandchildren exposed the unknown risk due to their ingesting microplastics wit each breath and drinking from plastic containers. 

We gladly spend billions saving the elderly and the medically compromised from covid, is there any will to sped a fraction of that on our mokopuna?