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A tiny invader has been found in our blood for the very first time4 min read

March 27, 2022 3 min read


A tiny invader has been found in our blood for the very first time4 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Plasma, platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells.

What do the four words on top have in common? If you guessed that they are all components of our blood, you definitely have been paying attention in Biology class!

However, little did any of us know that an intruder, an artificial trespasser, a manmade invader has made its way to our blood for the very first time.

Solve the puzzle below to uncover this supremely tiny intruder.

Now that we know what has entered our bloodstream, let’s get into the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of things.

Tiny particles of plastics, called microplastics, were detected in human blood for the first time, according to a study by a group of scientists in the Netherlands.

Published in the journal Environment International, the study found that 17 out of the 22 healthy people the researchers took samples from had quantifiable amounts of plastic particles in their blood.

How did they find the microplastics?

Microplastics, as we know by now, are extremely small. Luckily, our technology has advanced enough for us to be detect them, regardless of their size. The researchers adapted existing techniques to detect and analyse particles that were as small as 700 nanometers in size.

They targeted five common plastics, including polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET and used in bottles, and polyethylene, which is used in food packaging.

The team used steel needles and glass tubes to avoid contamination.

The results support the hypothesis that human exposure to plastic particles results in the absorption of particles into the bloodstream, but further study is needed to assess the impacts of exposure and whether it is a public health risk, the study said.

The World Health Organization has said that there’s insufficient information to draw firm conclusions about how toxic microplastics are for people, and that more research is needed.

However, Prof Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and lead author of the study, was quoted as saying by The Guardian, that the discovery is certainly reasonable to be concerned. “The particles are there and are transported throughout the body.”

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

Ecotoxicology is a mix of ecology, toxicology, physiology, analytical chemistry, molecular biology, and mathematics. Ecotoxicology looks at the impacts of contaminants on individuals, populations, natural communities, and ecosystems.

The researcher also said that such particles can cause chronic inflammation. “Good ventilation of the house is important because microplastic concentrations appear to be higher indoors than outdoors. I also cover my food and drinks to reduce the deposition of plastic particles,” he said. 

Most microplastics get into our oceans

Microplastics are abundant in the environment and can be found in marine animals to drinking water. Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year and at least 14 million tons end up in the ocean where they can be ingested by animals and risk entering the human food supply chain, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Some materials can take centuries to break down, and growing concerns about their pollutive impacts have initiated bans on single-use plastic bags. 

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

According to new research from scientists at Tarleton State University in Texas, okra or ladies finger is a valuable weapon in the fight to get microplastics out of our drinking water. While some may not be partial to okra because of its slimy, gooey texture, it is this quality that allows a compound from the plant to be utilised as a safer method of filtering out microplastics from water.

Sources: The Quint, The Guardian, Mint

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