Article Author: Brooke Linnehan, Molecular and Cellular Biology, M.S. student, POB Science Translator

Plastic, the incredibly versatile and ubiquitous material of the modern world, surrounds us every day. From the cup your iced coffee is served in each morning, to the case your phone is in, to the bottle of face lotion you apply every night, plastic has made its way into just about every corner of our lives. And as we have recently discovered, that includes inside of us, as well. 

Researchers have detected microplastics in human blood. In a recent study in Amsterdam, Netherlands, scientists analyzed blood samples from 22 healthy adults from the general public. They filtered the blood to collect particles ranging from 500,000 nanometers down to just 700 nanometers. For reference, a strand of human hair is about 100,000 nanometers wide! They found microplastics in 77% of the participants. (Leslie et al., 2022). The main plastic materials that the researchers detected include polyethylene, polystyrene, poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA), polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET was the most common, detected in about 50% of participants. Polystyrene was the second most common plastic polymer, detected in 36% of participants. PET is typically used to make disposable water bottles, and polystyrene is typically used in styrofoam food packaging.

Many of these plastic materials are known endocrine disrupting chemicals and thus pose a concern for human health. An endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) is a chemical that can interfere with the body’s endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for regulating the hormones that communicate information between organs and tissues. EDCs can block hormones, mimic them, or interfere with their normal roles in the body, which can lead to a higher risk of negative health effects like breast cancer. 

The findings of this study are particularly concerning because the bloodstream is the body’s natural highway system, transporting nutrients and hormones to their destination(s), as well as removing toxins and waste. The bloodstream may be transporting these microplastics to organs, but more research is needed to definitively show what these microplastics are doing in the body. However, studies in rats have demonstrated the ability of plastic particles to be transported to placental and fetal tissues (Fournier et al., 2020). In addition, studies in mice have shown accumulation of polystyrene particles in the liver, gut, and kidney (Deng et al., 2017, Lu et al., 2018). These findings in rats and mice highlight the potential risk of plastics and how these particles may affect our own health. 

Microplastics are a significant environmental and health concern as plastics can break down into very small particles and contaminate drinking water sources. To reduce microplastic exposure, avoid plastics as often as possible. Some safer options are using glass or stainless steel food and drink containers and avoiding to-go packaging altogether. 

This study documents the presence of microplastics in human blood, but we still don’t know how they are functioning inside the body, potentially making them that much more of a threat. We know that the plastic polymer materials that they are made out of can interfere with hormone function, so it is best to avoid exposure altogether. The results of this study are concerning because all 22 participants were healthy adult individuals, suggesting that anyone could show signs of microplastics in their blood without suspecting it or having any particular health conditions that would lead to such suspicion. As always, it is best to act with an abundance of caution, so check out the Protect Our Breasts website and Instagram pages for more information on ways to reduce exposure and make safer choices!



Deng, Y., Zhang, Y., Lemos, B., & Ren, H. (2017). Tissue accumulation of microplastics in mice and biomarker responses suggest widespread health risks of exposure. Scientific reports, 7(1), 1-10.

Fournier, S. B., D’Errico, J. N., Adler, D. S., Kollontzi, S., Goedken, M. J., Fabris, L., … & Stapleton, P. A. (2020). Nanopolystyrene translocation and fetal deposition after acute lung exposure during late-stage pregnancy. Particle and Fibre Toxicology, 17(1), 1-11.

Leslie, H. A., Van Velzen, M. J., Brandsma, S. H., Vethaak, D., Garcia-Vallejo, J. J., & Lamoree, M. H. (2022). Discovery and quantification of plastic particle pollution in human blood. Environment International, 107199.

Lu, L., Wan, Z., Luo, T., Fu, Z., & Jin, Y. (2018). Polystyrene microplastics induce gut microbiota dysbiosis and hepatic lipid metabolism disorder in mice. Science of the Total Environment, 631, 449-458.


Disclaimer: The information provided herein is the author’s opinion. Our authors are not scientists. We are not providing medical advice, but simply sharing publicly available information. When we reference data and databases, we do so with the caveat that most are only as good as the data they are based on. While POB strives to make the information as timely and accurate as possible, we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the completeness, or adequacy of the contents of any site that is shared, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of these sites. POB goes to great lengths to avoid declaring shared products as “safe” as there is no legal definition of the word “safe” at this time.

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