Microplastics in Our Bodies
Microplastics are everywhere! For some this has been a known fact for years, but others might be asking themselves, What even is a microplastic? Let's dig into recent studies that have found microplastics in the human body (gasp!) and all of the nuances that come with it.
What is a Microplastic?
Microplastics are small plastic particles that are less than 5mm in size. There are two categories of microplastics. Primary microplastics are those that are designed to be small like microbeads in skin care products. Secondary microplastics are tiny plastic particles that shed from larger sources of plastic. Secondary microplastics can be shed from things like car tires, shoe soles, and synthetic clothing₁. While microplastics seem to find their way into everything, recent research has started to find them inside our own bodies.
Microplastics in our Bodies
In the last couple years more and more research has been published detecting the presence of microplastics in our bodies.
In 2021 an Italian scientist tested the placentas of 6 women and found microplastics in 4 of them₂. Microplastics were found on the maternal side, fetal side, and chorioamniotic membranes₂.
In 2022 the same scientist tested the breast milk of 34 women and found the presence of microplastics in 26 of those samples₃.
In 2022 another scientist tested for the presence of microplastics in the blood of 22 participants. Of these 22 participants 17 had detectable levels of microplastics in their blood₄.
More and more research has been published detecting the presence of microplastics in our bodies.
How reliable is this research?
While it needs to be known that these studies often do not sample a large enough population to make conclusions about community exposure we can use this as a sign that microplastics are able to infiltrate these areas of our bodies.
How are these little pieces of plastic getting inside of us?
We are exposed to microplastics all throughout our daily lives. A study published in 2019 investigated the ways we most frequently ingest microplastics₅. Their research found that breathing microplastics in the air was the largest exposure pathway and that the most common type of microplastic ingested was microplastic fibers which could be shed from synthetic clothing₅.
Microplastics are everywhere, from rain clouds₆ to arctic ice₇, to our own bodies₅.
Microplastics are everywhere, from rain clouds₆ to arctic ice₇, to our own bodies₅. Research is still developing on how these microplastics affect our health but for now we can look at the plastic use in our own lives while pressuring brands to do better by reducing the plastic used in their products.
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