Since the second half of the 20th century, our planetbegan to get dirty with plastic debris. Plastic bottles and other waste do not decompose for 1000 years and cause the death of many animals. However, bottles, packaging and other waste are only half the trouble. On land, in water and air, there are also plastic particles with a diameter of less than 5 millimeters, which are referred to as microplastics. According to the World Health Organization, these tiny particles cannot harm the human body. However, recently, scientists have come to the conclusion that when people inhale microplastics, the shape of the respiratory system can change and ruptures can form in the lungs. Sounds awful, doesn't it? Let's take a look at how scientists got such frightening results.
Danger of microplastics
The results of the scientific work carried out werepublished in the scientific journal Chemical Research in Toxicology. To find out how plastic particles affect human lung tissue, the researchers placed the corresponding cells in Petri dishes. Added to these were microscopic particles of polystyrene, a plastic used to make disposable tableware, building materials and other products. The concentration of plastic particles was the same as in the environment. As a result of the experiment, scientists were surprised to find that plastic does not kill living cells, but does something more interesting with them.
Lung cells were in contact with microplastics forfor several days. First of all, scientists noticed that during this time, metabolic processes in the tissues slowed down greatly. Within 24 hours, the cells began to absorb the smallest particles of plastic and the material began to envelop the cell nuclei. The shape of the cells changed, resulting in tears in the tissues. We can say that microscopic plastic particles destroy the lungs, but not by destroying cells, but by changing their shape.
See also: Why does a person need air and how the lungs work?
Microplastic air pollution
The authors of the scientific work are very puzzledunexpected results. It turns out that microplastics are still harmful to the human body. At a minimum, it can be hazardous if inhaled. Previously, scientists found that most of the plastic enters the human body along with drinking water. But in doing so, they ignored the fact that tiny particles can enter vital organs in other ways. At the moment, scientists have taken only the first step towards understanding the problem - there is a possibility of causing great harm, but this has not yet been fully provided.
The fact is that the research was carried out inlaboratory conditions. Human lung tissues were in contact with microplastics very closely, inside a Petri dish. But when inhaled, the human body and plastic particles interact with each other in a completely different way. At a minimum, some plastic particles do not enter the body, because the human body has natural "filters" that prevent potentially harmful particles from entering. In addition, some particles can be exhaled back out.
At the moment, scientists intend to conduct a seriesmore thorough experiments. Most of all, they are interested in how plastic particles affect the health of people who already have respiratory problems. Based on the research results, it will be necessary to develop a technology to protect against the harmful effects of plastic. Perhaps someday we will have new air purifiers, or at least some tips like "ventilate the room every hour" will be developed. Or maybe scientists will be able to figure out which rooms have the most plastic particles in the air. And in these places it will be recommended to wear masks. So it's good that we are already used to them.
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We have already discussed microplastics many times inwithin the articles on our website. For example, I recently wrote about whether it is possible to remove plastic particles from water. This article describes how microplastics get into the water, how it gets inside the human body and how you can get rid of them. In my opinion, this is a very important topic that everyone should pay attention to. So enjoy your reading!