Just weeks after nations around the world announced a treaty to address plastic pollution, a new study has revealed that microplastic pollution as been detected in human blood for the first time.
Scientists found Microplastics in 80% of the people they tested, and reveals that the tiny plastic particles can travel around the body and lodge in human organs, according to a report in The Guardian.
Researchers don't know what impact these plastics can have on human health, but the Guardian noted that previous studies found that microplastics can damage human cells in laboratories and other particulate matter in air has caused lung disease, cancers, and other deadly illnesses.
Governments around the world are beginning to address the issue -- beginning with a historic effort by the United Nations to craft international regulations on plastic consumption.
“Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic. With today’s resolution we are officially on track for a cure,” said President of the UN General Assembly, and Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment, Espen Barth Eide, in a statement earlier in March.
The agreement sets up a negotiating committee made up of member states that will draft a recommendation for policy that will become binding international legislation by 2024.
The European Union earlier this week announced new rules governing the sustainability and environmental impact of a host of products -- with many of the new regulations designed to curb plastic waste.
Plastic pollution is now ubiquitous around the world. Plastics have been found everywhere from remote mountains to ocean trenches and humans are eating about a credit card worth of plastic every week.
The study, financed by the Dutch National Organisation for Health Research and Development and Common Seas, a nonprofit focused on plastic pollution, analyzed blood samples from 22 anonymous donors and found plastic particles in 17.
Blood from the donors contained plastics used in everything from plastic bottles, food packaging, and plastic bags (these are all different kinds of plastics).
“Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood – it’s a breakthrough result,” Prof Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, told The Guardian. “But we have to extend the research and increase the sample sizes, the number of polymers assessed, etc.”
The study's author noted that the levels of plastic found in the blood of donors varied, but that even small quantities of plastic raised big questions.
“The big question is what is happening in our body?” Vethaak said. “Are the particles retained in the body? Are they transported to certain organs, such as getting past the blood-brain barrier?” And are these levels sufficiently high to trigger disease? We urgently need to fund further research so we can find out.”
As governments pass new regulations to address these issues, companies are coming up with organic replacements that should be non-toxic. These are companies like Notpla out of the UK and our own portfolio company, RWDC.