Scientists have discovered microplastics in living human lungs for the first time.
Researchers from the University of Hull and Hull York Medical School also found microplastics in the deepest part of the lungs, which was previously thought impossible due to the narrow airways.
Microplastics have already been found in autopsy samples from human cadavers, but this is the first study to show them in the lungs of living people.
The research team say the results show that inhaling microplastics is a route of exposure and will now help guide future studies into the impact microplastics could have on respiratory health.
The study, published in science of the whole environmentfound 39 microplastics in 11 of the 13 lung tissue samples tested – significantly more than all previous laboratory tests.
Laura Sadofsky, lead author of the paper, said: “Microplastics have already been found in autopsy samples from human cadavers. This is the first robust study showing microplastics in the lungs of living humans.
“It also shows that they are in the lower parts of the lungs. The airways of the lungs are very narrow so no one thought they could possibly get there, but it clearly is.
“These data represent important advances in the fields of air pollution, microplastics and human health.
“The characterization of types and amounts of microplastics that we found can now provide realistic conditions for laboratory exposure experiments aimed at determining health effects.”
Surgeons at Castle Hill Hospital in East Yorkshire delivered the live lung tissue taken during surgical procedures on surviving patients as part of their routine medical care. It was then filtered to see what was there.
There were 12 types of microplastics detected, commonly found in packaging, bottles, clothing, rope/cord and many manufacturing processes.
Male patients also showed significantly higher microplastic values than female patients.
The study showed that 11 microplastics were found in the upper part of the lungs, seven in the middle part and 21 in the lower part of the lungs – which was an unexpected finding.
Ms Sadofsky said: “We did not expect to find the highest number of particles in the lower regions of the lungs or particles of the size we found.
“This is surprising because the airways are smaller in the lower parts of the lungs and we would have expected particles of this size to be filtered out or trapped before they get that deep into the lungs.”
The study follows research published in March by the University of Hull and Hull York Medical School, in which scientists recorded high levels of atmospheric microplastics during a year-long study at a site near a busy northern trunk road.
The researchers found that the most common microplastics were polyethylene, which comes from things like degraded plastic packaging or carrier bags; nylon, which can come from clothing; and resins that may come from degraded roads, paint markings, or tire rubber.
They also found microplastics of the size and shape that people can breathe in.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/scientists-discover-microplastics-in-live-human-lungs-for-the-first-time-41526955.html Scientists discover microplastics in living human lungs for the first time