A study has found that microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory at levels known to be eaten by people.
The research is the first to show that cell death and allergic reactions happen at levels relevant to human exposure. It is not known how long microplastics remain in the body before they are removed.
From the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans, the planet has been polluted by microplastics. People were already consuming the tiny particles via food and water.
The research looked at 17 previous studies that looked at the toxicological impacts of microplastics. The scientists compared the levels of microplastics at which damage was caused to the cells with the levels consumed by people through contaminated drinking water, seafood and table salt.
The levels of microplastics in people's food caused some harm, such as cell death, allergic response, and damage to cell walls.
According to the research published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, harmful effects on cells are the beginning of health effects. We should be worried. There is no way to protect ourselves right now.
He said that future research could make it possible to identify the most contaminated foods and avoid them, but the ultimate solution was to stop the loss of plastic waste.
Danopoulos said that research on the health impact of microplastics is ramping up quickly. We are exposed to these particles every day. We don't know how they react to us once we are in.
The research showed irregularly shaped microplastics caused more cell death than spherical ones. Many microplastics bought for use in laboratory experiments are spherical, and therefore may not be representative of the particles humans ingest.
The next step for researchers was to look at studies of microplastic harm in laboratory animals, but they would not be ethical. In March, a study showed that tiny plastic particles in the lungs of pregnant rats pass quickly into the hearts, brains and other organs of their unborn children.
Microplastics were found in the placentas of unborn babies in December, which the researchers said was a matter of great concern. Babies were swallowing millions of particles a day when they were fed formula in plastic bottles.