The average person inhales the equivalent of a credit card’s worth of microplastics every WEEK, study suggests – increases risk of numerous health problems like cancer and infertility
According to one study, the average person in the West inhales the equivalent of a credit card’s worth of plastic every week.
Microplastics, tiny pieces of the man-made material, are repelled by single-use plastics such as bottles and food packaging, which are then released into the air, water and food around us.
Scientists have previously discovered microplastics in the lungs, brains and blood of living and deceased people, but how much plastic ends up in our bodies is still up for debate.
Researchers in Australia built a computer model to simulate how microplastics move through the airways and settle there when someone breathes. They found that these toxic pollutants usually accumulate in hot spots in the nasal cavity or the back of the throat, where they can easily travel deep into the airways.
They also found that the average person inhaled 16.2 pieces of microplastic every 24 hours, which the academics said was the equivalent of a bank card worth of the material per week.
Researchers say we inhale the equivalent of a credit card’s worth of microplastics every week (stock image)
microplastics have been linked to the development of cancer, heart disease and dementia, as well as fertility problems. And there are fears that they will cause babies to be born dangerously underweight.
Dr. Mohammad Islam, a data expert at the University of Technology Sydney who led the latest research, said: ‘Millions of tonnes of these microplastic particles have been found in water, air and soil.
‘The global production of microplastics is increasing and the density of microplastics in the air is increasing significantly.
“For the first time, in 2022, studies found microplastics deep in the human respiratory tract, raising concerns about serious respiratory health hazards.”
Researchers built a computer model that simulated the movement of ambient air through the human nasal cavity and trachea.
They include microplastic particles of three different shapes: spherical, tetrahedral and cylindrical.
They were all smaller than six micrometers (microns). In comparison, human cells measure an average of six to eight microns.
The particles were moved through the respiratory system at a low speed to represent standard breathing, and at a high speed to represent the sharp intake of air during strenuous exercise.
The results showed that the largest microplastics were more likely to get stuck in the airways than the smaller ones.
The nasal cavity was the place where they were most likely to get stuck.
But if someone breathed faster, microplastics of any size were less likely to get trapped.
The study was unable to demonstrate whether microplastics in the nasal cavity or trachea could subsequently enter the bloodstream.
But separate evidence has shown that they can do this in the gut after being ingested by humans.
There is concern that microplastics lodged in the nasal cavity could lead to inflammation in the area or create a surface for bacteria to grow on, increasing the risk of infection.
Once in the bloodstream, they can travel to other parts of the body, where they can disrupt cell function and cause inflammation.
Studies have suggested that they may increase the risk of DNA damage to cells and, as a result, a person’s risk of developing cancer.
The study was published Tuesday in the journal Physics of Fluids.