Small Plastic Particles Now Found Deep Inside Human Lungs

Small Plastic Particles Now Found Deep Inside Human Lungs


  • A team of researchers has discovered microplastics in human lungs.
  • This research shows that we are inhaling toxic substances unaware.
  • Continuous exposure to these microplastics will have adverse effects on our respiratory health.

Microplastics have been discovered in tiny zooplankton. Water bottles were also found in the bodies of fishes washing up on shores. And polar bears have been found to be aggressive, even against their offspring, after ingesting plastic bottles. These plastics are more harmful than gambling, alcohol and other addictions and vices.

This is information that we’ve had for a few years now.

These are all effects that haven’t been affecting us directly and perhaps why enough measures haven’t been put in place to curb them. However, the latest revelation should have all of us concerned; the discovery of microplastics in the lungs of living people.

This should come as shocking news, but not after learning that the source of these plastics is carrier bags and degraded plastic packaging.

What should further shock you should be the findings of the scientists – the depth in which these plastics had been lodged inside the human lungs.

Findings From the Research

The research was published on 6 Apr 2022 by a team of scientists from Hull York Medical School and the University of Hull. The team used 13 lung tissue samples collected from patients who’d gone for routine medical care at Castle Hill Hospital in East Yorkshire.

After analysis, results showed that 11 of the 13 tissue samples had 39 particles of microplastics. According to the scientists, this was considerably high compared to results from previous lab tests.

For a long time, humans have been known to breathe in tiny particles, especially those living in urban areas where plastic usage is widespread. Workers in factories producing different plastics types have also tested positive for microplastics in their blood samples.

However, this research shocked many as the 12 types identified were from plastics commonly used in the packaging industry. It showed that everyone who uses these plastics on a day-to-day basis was exposed to these dangers.

These plastics include resin, polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate, which are usually found in clothing, bottles, packaging, twine and rope manufacturing, plus other industries.

The reports stated that microplastics as small as 4 micrometres were found in the samples but were shocked with particles larger than 2 mm within all collected samples. Most of these samples were fragmented and fibrous.

It further showed 11 microplastics in the upper sections of the lungs, 21 in the lower sections, and 7 in the mid regions.

Speaking to the press, Laura Sadofsky, MBBS, a lecturer in respiratory medicine at Hull York Medical School and who led the research, said that this research was the first of its kind in history and revealed so much information that was not known before.

"Microplastics have previously been found in human cadaver autopsy samples. It is the first robust study to show microplastics in lungs from live people.”

"It also shows that they are in the lower parts of the lung. Lung airways are very narrow, so no one thought they could possibly get there, but they clearly have," she said.

Out of the 11 tested positive samples, those collected from males showed a significant level compared to women.

“This data provides an important advance in the field of air pollution, microplastics, and human health,” she said.

This Is Not the First Time Plastic Is Found in Humans

A study conducted by Brazilian scientists on autopsy samples discovered microplastics in 13 of the 20 samples collected. The average age for this group was higher than those in Sadofsky’s study. In this research, polyethylene, which is very common in plastic bags, was the main contaminant.

In 1998, a US study of patients living with lung cancer showed that there were traces of plastic and plant fibres (such as cotton) in 200+ samples collected. In the cancerous tissue, 97% of the samples had fibre, and for the non-cancerous samples, 83% were contaminated.

These reports had almost a similar conclusion, which is the increased usage of plastics and improper disposal. Millions of tons of plastics are used and dumped into the environment every year. This, in turn, is hurting the environment, from the deepest parts of the ocean to the summit of Mount Everest. And as long as we consume some of these animals that consume the same plastic, the numbers will only get higher.

Reducing the production of plastic is crucial and if we cannot find ways to replace them, then looking for proper collection and treatment of plastic wastes is crucial.

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