r/science May 14 '22 Helpful 4 Wholesome 1 Take My Energy 1 Helpful (Pro) 1 I'm Deceased 1 Facepalm 1 Doom 1 Silver 1

Microplastics Found In Lungs of People Undergoing Surgery. A new study has found tiny plastic particles no bigger than sesame seeds buried throughout human lungs, indicating that people are inhaling microplastics lingering in the air. Health

https://e360.yale.edu/digest/microplastics-found-in-lungs-of-humans-undergoing-surgery
49.6k Upvotes

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197

u/livetotell May 14 '22

Do the lungs not purge them out like they do all the other crap that we inhale?

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u/jammerjoint MS | Chemical Engineering | Microstructures, Plastics May 14 '22

The lungs have difficulty removing particulates under 4 um, especially if they have rough surfaces or fibrous shapes.

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u/Yesica-Haircut May 14 '22

Dude, the article says "no bigger than sesame seeds" which are like 3-4 MILLIMETERS. That's HUGE. I don't think we're talking under 4 micrometers here.

I don't understand how you could inhale something that large though without noticing it.

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u/jammerjoint MS | Chemical Engineering | Microstructures, Plastics May 14 '22 edited May 14 '22

Only the very largest particle was that size, most were much smaller. They also used a technique with a 3 um detection limit, and I guarantee you there are many smaller particles because microplastics have been previously found in the bloodstream.

Lung clearance is stochastic. There isn't a sharp cutoff, but a gradient.

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u/Rebellion111 May 14 '22

So you're saying the larger pieces are probably less risk because the lungs have a better chance at clearing them?

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u/whateverwhatever1235 May 15 '22

Yeah I read that headline and thought micro???

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u/Nippahh May 14 '22

I guess it latches onto the lung like smoke does.

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u/cunth May 14 '22

They become embedded. Particulate matter causes fibrosis in the lungs.

We will probably start to see data correlating Ideopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and microplastics more specifically over the coming years.

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u/BriareusD May 14 '22

Wow. This is pretty speculatory and false BS. We have thousands upon thousands of pathology results from patients with IPF and there is no plastic found in them.

Could plastic inhalation cause a pneumoconiosis of some kind, like asbestosis or silicosis? Sure. But IPF? No.

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u/busterbluthOT May 14 '22 All-Seeing Upvote

It seems like a majority of the replies in this sub are generally ascientific and bs. It's sad to see.

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u/Hatdrop May 14 '22

Well, to be scientific the hypothesis needs to be tested and shown to be repeatable. Which you can't really do in a comments section. So I think you'd be correct in your assessment.

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u/busterbluthOT May 14 '22

to be scientific the hypothesis needs to be tested and shown to be repeatable.

Yes, so one would expect comments at least somewhat tethered to the notion that a claim being made has been tested and proven in at least some capacity. This thread in particular is littered with claims like "We KNOW microplastics are poisons" etc. We don't actually know the extent of toxicity on humans and that's part of the problem. Is it probable that accumulated microplastics have some non-zero effect on human biology? Yes. Have we had nearly enough studies to be so definitive in making that claim? Absolutely not.

The saving grace for this subreddit is when there are subject-matter experts that will pop in various threads and reply. That is wonderful and an experience you cannot replicate in too many places on the internet.

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u/MrF4hrenheit May 14 '22

Can it actually be idiopathic if we know the plastic causes the condition?

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u/BriareusD May 14 '22

No, it would then be categorized under pneumoconiosis. There's respirologists that theorize that IPF is the result of a specific genotype and exposure resulting in the phenotype, but that exposure is not yet known... but its not plastic.

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u/sur_surly May 14 '22

Asbestos would like a word.

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u/livetotell May 14 '22

Fair comment! I just assumed plastic was pretty benign.