Scientists Discover That Microplastics Cause Accelerated Human Cell Death

by Bill McCool on 10/03/2019 | 3 Minute Read

It was announced today at the Plastic Health Summit that researchers from the University Medical Centre (UMC) Utrecht discovered that microplastics cause accelerated human cell death and are harmful to our health.

Led by Assistant Professor at the UMC Utrecht Center for Quantitative Immunology Nienke Vrisekoop, the study found that human immune cells that come into contact with microplastics die nearly three times faster than those that don’t. This particular type of cell death can potentially trigger an inflammatory response in the human body.

The experiment consisted of covering microplastics in blood plasma placed in a culture dish along with human immune cells; 60% of the cells died within 24 hours of coming within contact of those same microplastics, while only 20% died when they weren’t exposed.

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The immune system is critical to human health, and it protects us from a number of viruses, bacteria and parasites.

“These results raise serious questions about what microplastics are doing to our immune health,” said Assistant Professor Nienke Vrisekoop. “Urgent further research is needed to paint as full a picture as possible.”

There is growing concern about the effects of plastic on human health; just last year, scientists found that the average person has 20 microplastic particles for every 10 grams of their stool.

The Plastic Health Summit is the first of its kind, featuring some of the world’s leading scientists and health experts talking about the latest findings on micro-and-nanoplastics and their impact on our health, like biochemist and wild animal biologist Liz Bonnin who revealed the results of a urine test showing all of the damaging plastic-related chemicals in her body. Both the Plastic Soup Foundation and A Plastic Planet launched the summit.

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Editorial photograph

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 coming 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? The Plastic Health Summit is a vital catalyst for us to finally understand the true cost of plastic on human health.

Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet

"The demonstrated impacts along the life cycle of plastic paint an unequivocally toxic picture; plastic threatens human health on a global scale,” David Azoulay, Environmental Health Program Director at the Center for International Environmental Law, said in a press release.

“It's high time businesses across the world took responsibility for the plastic they produce," he added.

“Anyone who cares about their health, or the health of their children, will be profoundly worried about today’s findings," said A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland.

"With plastic production set to quadruple in the coming decades," she added, "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? The Plastic Health Summit is a vital catalyst for us to finally understand the true cost of plastic on human health."

The demonstrated impacts along the life cycle of plastic paint an unequivocally toxic picture; plastic threatens human health on a global scale. It's high time businesses across the world took responsibility for the plastic they produce.

David Azoulay, Environmental Health Program Director at CIEL

Maria Westerbos, founder and director of the Plastic Soup Foundation, said: “With this Summit, we want to prove once and for all that plastic doesn’t just harm nature and animals, but also ourselves. If we want to give our children and their children a fair chance, then all this proof is enough to turn the tide.”

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