Daily Hot Topic

Plastic Pollution and Human Health: A Growing Concern

GS-2 Mains

Microplastics (MPs) and Nanoplastics (NPs) Contamination:

  • Plastics are ubiquitous, contaminating environments through various means.
  • Degradation of plastics leads to microplastics (MPs < 5 mm) and nanoplastics (NPs < 1000 nm).
  • MPs and NPs pose a threat to human health, particularly cardiovascular health.

MPs and NPs Impact:

  • Preclinical studies suggest MPs and NPs enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact.
  • Detected in human tissues (placenta, lungs, liver), breast milk, urine, and blood.
  • May act as a potential risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

New Study in The New England Journal of Medicine:

  • Investigated presence of MPs and NPs in carotid artery plaque (linked to cardiovascular risks).
  • Studied 304 patients (257 completed follow-up).
  • Used advanced techniques to identify MPs and NPs in plaque samples.

Key Findings:

  • Polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride (common plastics) found in plaque samples (µg/mg).
  • Patients with MPs/NPs in plaque had higher risk of:
    • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
    • Stroke
    • Death (compared to those without MPs/NPs)
  • Stable isotope analysis supported these findings.

Overall Significance:

  • The study links MPs/NPs exposure to increased cardiovascular disease risk in humans.
  • More research needed, but this is a significant development.

Microplastics and Cardiovascular Risks: A Growing Concern

Exposure and Risks:

  • Occupational studies suggest higher cardiovascular disease risk in people exposed to plastic pollutants (e.g., PVC) compared to the general population.
  • Widespread presence of microplastics (MPs) in human tissues and fluids raises health concerns.
  • MPs found in drinking water, food, cosmetics, and even inhaled as air pollution.
  • Small size of MPs allows easy absorption and penetration into organs like the heart.

Potential Harms:

  • Mechanisms not fully understood, but studies link MPs (polyethylene, PVC) to heart problems in animals.
  • Potential effects include:
    • Pericardial effusions (fluid buildup around the heart)
    • Increased risk of blood clots

Moving Forward:

  • More research needed on MP health impacts.
  • Mitigating plastic pollution’s effect on human health is crucial.

Source : https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/health/microplastics-and-nanoplastics-are-an-emerging-threat-to-cardiovascular-health-95572


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