Tiny ‘microplastic’ particles could be harmful to our health by damaging the body’s immune system, a new study finds.A growing body of evidence suggests that fragments of plastic are finding their way into every stage of the food chain – ending up on the dinner plate and moving into the human body. But very little is known about the harm these microplastics pose to humans once there and what amount of them might constitute a health risk. Now, a study suggests they could pose a health threat. However, more research is needed to confirm this and identify the nature of the risk.
The new study, led by Nienke Vrisekoop, showed the rate of cell death is thought to be far in excess when immune cells encounter and engulf bacteria or other foreign bodies.In the experiments, microplastics coated in blood plasma were placed in culture dishes alongside human immune cells under laboratory conditions. Twenty percent of immune cells tested in culture dishes without microplastics died within 24 hours. When immune cells came into contact with microplastics 60% of the cells died within the same time period. Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, said that anyone who cares about their health or the health of their children “will be profoundly worried about today’s findings. “With plastic production set to quadruple in the next decades, we need to ask ourselves – is this risk worth it for the sake of convenience in our throwaway lifestyle or is this finally the proof needed to turn off the plastic tap?”