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How microplastics affect human health

This Jan. 19, 2020 photo shows microplastic debris that has washed up at Depoe Bay, Ore. Dozens of scientists from around the U.S. West will attend a gathering this week in Bremerton, Wash., to better focus the research on the environmental threat. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)
This Jan. 19, 2020 photo shows microplastic debris that has washed up at Depoe Bay, Ore. Dozens of scientists from around the U.S. West will attend a gathering this week in Bremerton, Wash., to better focus the research on the environmental threat. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)

Water bottles. Shopping bags. Computers. Medical equipment. Food containers. And on and on and on.

Plastics. They never go away. And even if we can’t see them — they’re everywhere.

“They are carried in the atmosphere, they are raining down on us. They’ve been found in the Himalayan mountains,” Erica Cirino says. “So right now we are immersed in a microplastics and nanoplastics soup.”

But are those microplastics inside of us?

“About five years ago was when scientists first began questioning, Are there plastics inside our bodies? And indeed there are,” Cirino adds.

For the first time, microplastics have been found in living humans — their lungs and blood.

“I don’t like it at all that plastic waste is in the river of life. One thing is clear that we are exposed,” Heather Leslie says. “Do they actually cause adverse health outcomes? That’s a question that takes many years to answer.”

Today, On Point: Microplastics and your health.

Guests

Erica Cirino, communications manager at the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Author of Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis. (@erica_cirino)

Heather Leslie, she established the microplastics lab at the Free University of Amsterdam. Lead author of a new study which found microplastics and nanoplastics in human blood.

Also Featured

Mary Kosuth, researcher at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.

Book Excerpt

Excerpt from Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis By Erica Cirino. Copyright © 2021, Published by Island Press. All rights reserved.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.