Microplastics discovered in live human lungs

Scientists find microplastics in live lungs for first time

Microplastics have been detected in live human lungs by researchers from the Hull York Medical School and University of Hull.

Previous studies have found microplastics in human cadaver autopsy samples but this is the first time they have been discovered in the lungs of live people. The microplastics were found in the deepest parts of the lung, something that wasn’t thought possible because the airways are so narrow.

The researchers tested 13 lung tissue samples and detected 39 microplastics in 11 of them – they say this level is higher than seen in past laboratory tests.

Twelve types of microplastics were found and they all originate from plastic products such as bottles, packaging and clothing. Eleven microplastics were discovered in the upper lung, seven in the middle and 21 in the lower lung.

Laura Sadofsky, the paper’s lead author and Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine at Hull York Medical School, said: “Microplastics have previously been found in human cadaver autopsy samples; this 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.

“This data provides an important advance in the field of air pollution, microplastics and human health. The characterisation of types and levels of microplastics we have found can now inform realistic conditions for laboratory exposure experiments with the aim of determining health impacts.”

The live lung tissue was provided by surgeons at Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, East Yorkshire and they collected it from routine procedures.

The study was published in the Science of the Total Environment international journal.

 

“This data provides an important advance in the field of air pollution, microplastics and human health.” Laura Sadofsky, lead author and Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine

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