Microplastic pollution has been detected in human blood for the first time, according to a new study.
The discovery shows the particles can travel around the body and may lodge in organs, with the impact on health being as yet unknown.
Researchers are concerned though as microplastics have been shown to cause damage to human cells in studies.
Microplastics are known to be found almost everywhere on Earth, as people were already known to consume the tiny particles via food and water as well as breathing them in.
Microplastics have been detected in human blood for the first time, with scientists finding tiny plastic particles in nearly 80% of people tested
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The scientists analysed blood samples from 22 anonymous donors, all healthy adults and found plastic particles in 17.
Half the samples contained PET plastic, which is commonly used in drinks bottles, while a third contained polystyrene, used for packaging food and other products.
A quarter of the blood samples contained polyethylene, from which plastic carrier bags are made.
Prof Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, said of the study: “Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood – it’s a breakthrough result.
“But we have to extend the research and increase the sample sizes, the number of polymers assessed, etc. It is certainly reasonable to be concerned."
The particles have also been found in the placentas of pregnant women, and in pregnant rats, they pass rapidly through the lungs into the hearts, brains and other organs of the foetuses.