Impact of Microplastics on Major Organs, Brain

Impact of Microplastics on Major Organs, Brain

Experts are revealing the important effects that microplastics have on major organs, including the brain. Check out the latest reports about this below.

Microplastics’ effects on brain and other organs

It is a matter of concern that microplastics, which are tiny fragments of plastic smaller than the size of a grain of rice, are entering our food supply, water, and eventually our bodies on a daily basis.

Early research indicates that these microplastics can cause inflammation and oxidative stress in mice, as well as accumulate in animal organs.

Studies: we’re ingesting microplastics!

Larger plastic items like shopping bags and water bottles break down into tiny microplastics over time due to elements such as sunlight and water.

These plastics, which evade waste management, become so small that they are microscopic. Apart from larger plastic items, everyday products like synthetic fabrics, cosmetics, and single-use plastic bags also shed plastic particles. These tiny plastic fragments travel through water, air, and the food chain until they ultimately enter our bodies.

The production of plastic has increased rapidly, reaching over 460 million tonnes in 2019. A 2019 analysis (pdf) published by the World Wildlife Federation, an independent conservation organization, estimates that people consume about 5 grams of plastic per week.

This amount is equivalent to the weight of a credit card. Researchers from around the world are studying the health impacts of microplastics.

Studies have shown that microplastics are widespread. For example, research published in Frontiers in Chemistry in 2018 showed that 93 percent of tested bottled waters contained microplastics.

Microplastic exposure is a widespread issue since many people consume bottled water daily.

According to Dr. Christopher Palmer, a Harvard professor, microplastics are virtually unavoidable in today’s world. They can be found everywhere, including in the snow at the top of Mount Everest (pdf), and even children born today are exposed to microplastics in utero. A recent study found microplastics in all the tissues studied from six human placentas.

Researchers have conducted a study in 2022 where they tested 22 people and found that most of them had detectable microplastics in their blood.

Plastic chemicals, such as phthalates and bisphenols, are linked to several conditions like obesity and diabetes. These conditions might potentially be caused by inflammation and hormone


Surgery and microplastics

Researchers conducted a pilot study in China in 2023 and published their findings in Environmental Science and Technology journal. The study revealed the presence of microplastics in the heart tissue of patients who underwent cardiovascular surgery.

The research team collected blood samples from 15 patients, and found nine different types of microplastics across five different tissue types.

After the surgery, the size and composition of the plastic particles changed, with smaller and more varied particles present. The surgical procedures seemed to introduce additional microplastics into the bloodstream, which then traveled to the heart’s innermost tissues.

Microplastics and health

Microplastics are minuscule particles that contain hazardous chemicals such as flame retardants, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and plasticizers, including BPA.

These toxins pose a serious threat to human health as they can disrupt hormones and cause chronic inflammation. Over time, microplastics accumulate in essential organs, which may lead to potential long-term health problems.

A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in 2023 found that microplastics could infiltrate cells within 24 hours of exposure and accumulate near the cell’s nucleus in mice.

The study revealed that the more prolonged the cells were exposed to microplastics, the more their viability was reduced.

The researchers examined the major tissues such as the brain, liver, kidney, gastrointestinal tract, heart, spleen, and lungs to determine where microplastics accumulate. Surprisingly, the study detected microplastics in every tissue examined, as well as in the urine and feces.

In a recent study, it was found that mice exposed to microplastics exhibited increased levels of inflammatory immune markers such as cytokines and tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha).

When these small particles enter the body, the immune cells identify them as foreign invaders and trigger an inflammatory response to remove them. If one is exposed to microplastics for a long time, it can result in chronic inflammation.

The brain’s fight against microplastics

A study published in Nanomaterials in 2023 found that microplastics can quickly infiltrate the brain, which is considered the most protected organ. The study was conducted in Austria where mice were given drinking water containing microplastics.

The researchers found that the plastic particles had entered the mice’s brains within two hours of consumption. The microplastics were then surrounded by cholesterol molecules on the surface of the brain, which allowed them to cross the blood-brain barrier.

This barrier normally protects the brain from harmful toxins and chemicals.

Dr. Palmer expressed concern over the results of the study, stating that the distribution of microplastics throughout the body, including the brain, is alarming.

The study suggests that microplastics can cause brain inflammation and lead to changes in behavior in mice within three weeks of consumption. However, further research is needed to determine the impact of microplastics on humans.

A study published in The International Journal of Molecular Sciences has shown that microplastics may have potential neurotoxicity. The researchers found that after just three weeks of exposure, mice developed dementia-like behavioral changes.

Moreover, older mice showed more impaired behaviors than younger ones. The study also identified a decrease in the levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) caused by microplastics.

GFAP supports the brain cell processes, and a reduction in its levels is associated with some neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s. GFAP serves as a biomarker, indicating issues related to Alzheimer’s disease before the onset of dementia.

Rada Mateescu

Passionate about freedom, truth, humanity, and subjects from the science and health-related areas, Rada has been blogging for about ten years, and at Health Thoroughfare, she's covering the latest news on these niches.

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