A new study suggests microplastics can pass through blood vessels to vascular tissue but scientists said it was not clear yet what the implications are for human health.
A team from the University of Hull and Hull York Medical School, with researchers from the Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, analysed human saphenous vein tissue taken from patients undergoing heart bypass surgery in a small pilot study.
They found 15 microplastic particles per gram of vein tissue and five different polymer types in the tissue.
The most prominent included alkyd resin, which is found in synthetic paint, varnishes and enamels, polyvinyl acetate (PVAC), an adhesive found in food packaging and nylon, and EVOH and EVA which is used in flexible packaging materials.
The study, published in the journal Plos One, showed the levels of microplastics observed were similar to, or higher than, those reported for colon and lung tissues.
It’s essential that more research is funded and undertaken as an absolute priority to establish the human health impact of these findings.
Co-author of the study and Honorary Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Professor Mahmoud Loubani, said: “Failure of saphenous vein grafts has been a long-standing issue following coronary artery bypass surgery. It is an effective treatment but the longevity is limited by deterioration in the patency of the veins.
“The presence of these microplastics in the veins may well play a role in damaging the inside of the vein leading to it becoming blocked with the passage of time. We do need to identify if there is any correlation and figure out ways of maybe removing the microplastics.”
Responding to the study, City to Sea’s CEO and Founder, Natalie Fee, said: “It’s essential that more research is funded and undertaken as an absolute priority to establish the human health impact of these findings.
“We know that microplastics have a toxic effect on our oceans, negatively impacting global nutrient cycles and oxygen levels, and it stands to reason there may be similar toxic effects in human bodies.
“Until we have a clear evidence base, the precautionary principle demands that we tackle the source of microplastics such as the plastic packaging we find in our supermarkets. This would have the added benefits of having a positive impact on marine plastic pollution, littering, and climate change at the same time.”