Researchers at the American Chemical Society have detected micro and nano plastic particles in human organs.
The researchers obtained 47 samples from a large repository of brain and body tissues that was established to study neurodegenerative diseases.
The team then developed a procedure to extract plastics from the samples and created a computer programme that converted information on plastic particle count into units of mass and surface area.
The researchers found bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to make plastics, in all 47 human samples.
This chemical is still used in many food containers despite health concerns.
The researchers have said these findings are particularly concerning, research in wildlife and animal models has linked micro- and nano plastic exposure to infertility, inflammation and cancer, but health outcomes in people are currently unknown.
Charles Rolsky, who is presenting the work at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, said: ‘You can find plastics contaminating the environment at virtually every location on the globe, and in a few short decades, we’ve gone from seeing plastic as a wonderful benefit to considering it a threat.
‘There’s evidence that plastic is making its way into our bodies, but very few studies have looked for it there. And at this point, we don’t know whether this plastic is just a nuisance or whether it represents a human health hazard.
‘Once we get a better idea of what’s in the tissues, we can conduct epidemiological studies to assess human health outcomes. That way, we can start to understand the potential health risks, if any.’
Rolf Halden, a PhD student at Arizona State University added: ‘We never want to be alarmist, but it is concerning that these non-biodegradable materials that are present everywhere can enter and accumulate in human tissues, and we don’t know the possible health effects.’
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