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Micro and nanoplastics in human blood detected again

24 June 2024
A second study by analytical chemists and immunologists of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Amsterdam University Medical Center (VUmc) on the presence of micro and nanoplastics in human blood confirms the team’s previous findings (Leslie et al., 2022). The first study received overwhelming attention, including a lot of resistance and disbelief especially from the polymer industry.

Meer polymeren in bloed
Higher levels of polymers in blood

The new results, published in Microplastics and Nanoplastics confirm the earlier study on micro and nanoplastics in human blood in that people are exposed in their day to day lives, and that tiny particles are taken up in their bodies giving rise to detectable levels of polymer in their bloodstream. In 17 out of the 68 blood samples analyzed polymers could be reliably quantified, with a mean of 1.1 µg/ml for the summed polymer concentrations.  Polyethylene was most frequently detected, and was measured in the highest concentration, 1.9 µg/ml.

Senior author analytical chemist Marja Lamoree emphasizes the importance of the new findings: “This proves that we are on the right track when measuring MNPs in blood, and that is necessary to support the assessment of the potential health risks associated with this exposure”. These findings add to the rapidly increasing knowledge on the occurrence of micro and nanoplastics in humans, that frequently draw attention in the press, for instance with the discovery of plastic particles in placentas, testicles and other organs.

Method improvement and inclusion of PVC
To obtain new results on the exposure of 68 volunteers the researchers expanded the tested set of polymers by the inclusion of PVC, a ubiquitously used material in indoor and outdoor applications. They finetuned the analytical method to obtain lower limits of detection and quantification of the six polymer types, and extensive quality assurance and they implemented quality control measures to support the accuracy of the method and the reliability of the results. Also, the particles were determined in two size ranges: particles with a size between 0.3 and 0.7 µm, and particles with a size > 0.7 µm.

Pioneering role in microplastics and health research
This research was part of the MOMENTUM project that is financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) programme Microplastics & Health and  Health∼Holland, Top Sector Life Sciences & Health. Due to this funding Dutch scientists have a leading role in microplastics research and the potential implications for human health. Additional funding was received from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme Marie Skłodowska-Curie and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

To the team’s great sadness, Dick Vethaak, one of the initiators of the global research on micro and nanoplastics, driving force behind the establishment of the ZonMw programme and co-author on the paper, has passed away just weeks before publication of the current work.

Contact the VU Press Office