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Nanoplastics found throughout the human body – how worried should we be?

The world is becoming clogged with plastic, with tiny plastic particles found everywhere, from the oceans’ depths to the mountain tops, soil, plants, animals and even inside us. The question is: what harm, if any, are they causing? In a new article on The Conversation, environmental scientists Meiru Wang and Michael Richardson outline the health risks of micro- and nanoplastics based on the latest research.

‘Our research suggests that, for some animals at least, nanoplastics are bad news,’ the scientists write. They injected plastic nanoparticles into chicken embryos and found that the particles ended up in tissues such as the heart, liver and kidneys. Wang and Richardson also found that plastic nanoparticles can damage the embryo’s stem cells, putting their development in jeopardy.

Risks, benefits, both or something in between?

In recent years, microplastics and nanoplastics have been found in humans as well. In the brains, hearts and lungs. ‘And also in the arteries of people with arterial disease, suggesting they may be a potential risk factor for cardiovascular disease.’ And they have been detected in breast milk, the placenta and, most recently, human testes.

But there is a need for caution, the authors write: ‘There is no evidence that nanoplastics can cross the placenta and get into the human embryo. And we are not aware of large increases in birth defects or miscarriages. Some researchers are even investigating potentially beneficial uses for these nanoplastics…’

Read the whole article on The Conversation: Microplastics and nanoplastics have been found throughout the human body – how worried should we be?

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