What do microplastics do to your body?

Microplastics, those tiny fragments of plastic that spread through our environment, have infiltrated even the most intimate parts of our bodies.

Recent studies reveal a concerning reality: microplastics are now being discovered in unexpected places, including our brains and gallstones [1].

In a world increasingly dominated by plastic, it’s no surprise that these microscopic particles are ubiquitous.

They originate from various sources, including the breakdown of more oversized plastic items, microbeads in personal care products and synthetic fibers from clothing. Once released into the environment, they find their way into water bodies, soil and even the air we breathe.

While the presence of microplastics in the environment is well-documented, their potential impact on human health is a growing concern. Recent research has uncovered the presence of microplastics in human tissues, raising questions about their effects on the body.

One study, published in the journal Environmental Research, found microplastics in human brain tissue for the first time. Scientists analyzed brain samples from deceased donors and detected microplastic particles in all samples examined.

The presence of these particles in the brain raises concerns about their potential to cause neurological damage, though the exact mechanisms remain unclear [2].

Another unexpected discovery came from analyzing gallstones, which are hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder. A study published in Environment International found microplastics in nearly 80% of the gallstones studied.

This finding suggests that microplastics may accumulate in the body over time, leading to the formation of these stones [3]. While the health implications of microplastics in gallstones are not fully understood, the presence of these particles in such a vital organ is cause for alarm.

The presence of microplastics in the human body underscores the need for further research into their health effects. While studies have shown that microplastics can cause inflammation and oxidative stress in laboratory animals, more research is needed to understand how these particles affect human health [4].

In addition to direct health effects, microplastics may also serve as carriers for harmful chemicals. These chemicals, which include pesticides, flame retardants and industrial pollutants, can adhere to the surface of microplastics and enter the body when ingested or inhaled.

Once inside the body, these chemicals can accumulate in tissues and organs, potentially causing various health problems.

Addressing the issue of microplastic pollution requires a multi-faceted approach. Efforts to reduce plastic consumption, improve waste management systems and develop alternative materials are essential for mitigating the release of microplastics into the environment.

Additionally, more research is needed to understand the full extent of the health risks associated with microplastic exposure and to develop strategies for minimizing harm.

The presence of microplastics in the human body is a concerning reality with potentially far-reaching health implications. While the full extent of the health risks remains uncertain, it is clear that urgent action is needed to address the issue of microplastic pollution and protect human health for generations to come.

[1] https://www.msn.com/en-ph/health/other/microplastics-are-now-found-in-brains-and-gallstones/ar-BB1lNUND
[2] https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP13435
[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412022001258
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10151227/

Photograph: deeangelo60141735/Envato
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