Micro- and nanoplastics can be a hot source of debate. They are in countless products that people use, yet it’s possible that they could be destructive to human health.
What happens when people unknowingly eat, drink, or inhale these nearly invisible plastics? There is much debate over whether or not they can make a difference to human health, and exactly how many one would have to consume to experience harm.
There is some data to suggest that they can harm metabolism. Although conclusive evidence in humans is lacking, there are animal studies to show that these plastics can harm health by causing inflammation, toxicity, and neurological changes.
A research team recently looked to see how these tiny particles may impact human lung and liver cells.
Micro-and nano-plastics are found in plastic plates, bottles, containers, and more. They are in countless products and they are brought into homes every day. Avoiding them completely is nearly impossible.
Researchers cultured human liver and lung cells in lab plates and treated then with different amounts of 80 nm-wide plastic particles. After two days, imaging showed that the plastic particles had entered both types of cells without killing them.
They did find, however, that the plastics had a negative influence on cell metabolism, and particularly the function of mitochondria, which are essentially the motors that run cells. Mitochondria generate ATP, which is the primary source of cellular energy.
This disturbance in metabolic processes and mitochondrial pathways created dysfunction, which may impact the functionality of both the liver and lungs.
Of course these results are from lab studies and isolated cells, so they do not necessarily reflect how these microplastics would impact living and breathing humans on a whole scale.
But if you are concerned about any potential harms of microplastics, you can limit the risk of eating or drinking them by using stainless steel or glass cups and plates, avoiding packaged food, and storing food in and beverages in glass containers.