Scientists discovered microplastics deep in the lungs of living humans for the first time.
Researchers at the University of Hull and Hull York Medical School in England found tiny pieces of plastic debris in 11 out of 13 samples taken from live lung tissue from surgical procedures on patients as part of their routine medical care.
In the study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, the researchers said they found microplastics lodged in the deepest section of the lung, which was previously thought to be impossible.
“This is surprising as the airways are smaller in the lower parts of the lungs, and we would have expected particles of these sizes to be filtered out or trapped before getting this deep into the lungs,” Dr. Laura Sadofsky, lead author of the study and senior lecturer in respiratory medicine, said.
The researchers identified 12 types of microplastics, which are commonly found in packaging, bottles, clothing, rope and twine, and other manufacturing processes.
According to the study, the most common particles were polypropylene, used in packaging and pipes, and Polyethylene terephthalate or PET, which is used in bottles.
Male patients also significantly contained higher levels of microplastics than with female patients, the researchers found.
“We hypothesize that this is due female airways being significantly smaller than the airways of males,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers said that the study will now help direct future research on the potential impact of microplastics on respiratory health.
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