Presence of micro- and nanoplastics in human blood confirmed

A new study by MOMENTUM partners at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University Medical Center confirms the presence of micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) in human blood. The study was published in the journal Microplastics and Nanoplastics this week. The findings highlight the importance of continued research on the quantification of plastic particles in the human body to assess potential health risks.

Quantifying the levels of polymers in blood

The new results confirm the team’s previous findings in which they discovered and quantified plastics particles in human blood for the first time. In the new study, the researchers identified plastic polymers in 64 of the 68 human blood samples tested. In 17 of them, the polymer concentrations were high enough to be reliably quantified. The average polymer concentration in these samples was 1070 ng/ml. The polymer polyethylene was most frequently detected and measured in the highest concentration of 1900 ng/ml.

Analytical chemist Marja Lamoree who led the work emphasises 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 our rapidly increasing knowledge of the occurrence of MNPs in human organs and tissues. Previous studies have also found plastic particles in placentas, testicles, blood vessels, and the heart, for example.

Improved analytical methods

In the new study, the researchers expanded the set of tested polymers to include PVC, a ubiquitously used material in indoor and outdoor applications. They also finetuned the analytical method to obtain lower limits of detection and quantification of the polymers. Extensive quality assurance and quality control measures were implemented to support the accuracy of the method and the reliability of the results. The team also distinguished between particles in 2 size ranges: between 0.3 and 0.7 µm and larger than 0.7 µm.

Pioneering role

Lamoree and her team have been part of the MOMENTUM project from the start. Their aim in the project is to develop and apply methods to measure and quantify MNPs in human samples. The team also includes first author Martin Brits, who recently said goodbye to the MOMENTUM consortium, and MOMENTUM researcher Martin van Velzen.

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 ‘Microplastics & Health’, and co-author on the paper, passed away just weeks before publication of the current work. Lamoree expresses her gratitude for the inspirational collaboration. Find the In Memoriam for Dick Vethaak here.

The study was funded by ZonMw programme ‘Microplastics & Health’ and Health~Holland project ‘Top Sector Life Sciences & Health’. Thanks to this funding, Dutch scientists have had a pioneering and leading role in the research on microplastics and the potential implications for human health. Additional funding was received from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programma Marie Skłodowska-Curie and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Text based on Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam