Microplastics are estimated to kill more than a million seabirds and over 100,000 marine mammals each year
Microplastics are tiny plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter. They are practically everywhere.

A study by a team of researchers from China has found microplastics in the human heart for the first time. The tiny particles were found in 11 of the 13 samples tested for their presence.

The team analysed the heart tissue of 15 patients who had undergone cardiovascular surgery and found "tens to thousands of individual microplastic pieces in most tissue samples."

The researchers also collected pre- and post-operative blood samples from the participants and found microplastic particles ranging from 20 to 500 micrometres in width.

The samples were collected from patients at Beijing Anzhen Hospital in China. As many as eight types of plastics, including poly(methyl methacrylate), polyethene terephthalate, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), were found in the heart tissue.

"The blood samples also contained plastic particles, yet post-surgery, their average size decreased, and the particles emanated from a more diverse range of plastic types," read an excerpt from the study.

"The detection of microplastics in cardiac tissues is alarming, and more studies are needed to examine how these particles enter cardiac tissues and their potential long-term effects on prognosis after cardiac surgery," it further stated.

It also suggested that some particles were introduced inadvertently during surgeries. It added that "the findings show how invasive medical procedures are an overlooked route of microplastic exposure, providing direct access to the bloodstream and internal tissues."

The researchers highlighted that more studies are needed to accurately assess the impact of microplastics on human health and the environment. The findings of the study have been published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The plastic scourge:

A study by the University of Georgia highlighted the fact that 91% of the world's plastic is not recycled. Plastic is everywhere; animals both on land and at sea mistakenly consume it, and microscopic particles can be found in the air and oceans.

These tiny particles have been found from the remotest regions of the Arctic and Antarctica to the deep seafloor. They are practically everywhere.

They are found in synthetic blankets, fleece, or shirts and in beauty products such as skin cleansers and scrubs. Even some toothpaste variants contain these tiny particles, according to a study by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Several studies have shown that microparticles can also be ingested by filter-feeding marine organisms such as oysters and mussels. They do not get filtered out during sewage treatment and manage to make their way to oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes.

Last year, a study by researchers from the UK found microplastics deep in the lungs of living people for the first time. The tiny particles were found in 11 of the 13 samples tested for their presence.

The most common particles found in the lung tissues included polypropylene, used in plastic packaging and pipes, and PET, used in bottles. The microplastics discovered in the lung tissues were likely inhaled from plastics used in packaging, bottles, clothing, rope and twine, and many manufacturing processes.

A 2021 study also found microplastics in autopsy samples taken from 20 bodies. The researchers then concluded: "Deleterious health outcomes may be related to these contaminants in the respiratory system following inhalation."

Microplastics were also found in human blood in a study conducted by scientists in the Netherlands and published in March 2022. The researchers had then taken samples from 22 anonymous donors, and 17 of the 22 samples had microplastics.

Microplastics are not just harmful to humans; they have had a similar impact on marine life. In 2016, a study conducted by scientists at Uppsala University in Sweden found that European perch larvae raised in microplastic-contaminated water had stunted growth.

The studies mentioned above are not the only ones that have highlighted the dangers associated with the continued and blind use of plastic. Over the years, hundreds of studies have issued warnings against plastics. Governments across the world need to join hands and work out a solution to the problem before it is too late.