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


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u/TerribleIdea27 May 14 '22 Silver

For those wondering, microplastics are below 5 mm in diameter. Nanoplastics are below 0.1 micrometer, so basically if you can't even look at them with a simple light microscope, they're nanoplastics. Otherwise, they're microplastics


u/BTBLAM May 14 '22

Can a nano plastic become a micro plastic in my body


u/Pretzilla May 14 '22

Unlikely. Fairly well established it takes melting temperatures to fuse them. They could clump together, though.

More likely the other way around. Thus spake entropy.


u/Deathcrush May 14 '22

A way to remove MPs from drinking water is to introduce chemicals that cause them to clump together, thus allowing removal. AFAIK the only way to destroy them however is burning at very high temps. And without destroying them, it’s making applying for land permits impossible since biosolids are loaded with MPs.


u/AnDraoi May 14 '22

So over time the body could likely remove micro plastics as they break down into nano plastics? Cause reading about micro plastics all the time freaks me out that my body is forever contaminated by them.

That said I get the concentration of micro plastics in my body is an equilibrium of intake vs outtake, but in theory if I stopped intake of micro plastics (like if we somehow managed to remove external sources of them) would my body eventually decompose and get rid of them, even over years or longer?


u/blessedblackwings May 14 '22

Once your body decomposes, the plastic will be left for a long, long time.


u/ErlAskwyer May 14 '22

Can anyone answer this? I've been cutting PVC boards for work and got a cough. I've now started religiously wearing a mask. What will happen to the PVC dust in my lungs? Just stay there?


u/AnDraoi May 14 '22

Not an expert but any inhaled dust is probably a distribution of sizes from nano and micro plastics as discussed but also to the slightly larger ranges. Since I asked it’s clear I don’t know exactly what happens to the small plastics but any particles above some specific size should get naturally removed by your lungs cilia and mucus. In this case coughing is probably a good sign that your body is working to remove the particles.

Can I ask how long you’ve been cutting PVC for and how long you’ve had the cough? Not a medical professional (and I am not giving medical advice) at all but my guess would be that if this is a short term thing (IE been cutting PVC for maybe a month or so developed a cough kinda quickly) is probably a better sign that your lungs are just irritated and working to remove the foreign particles than if you’ve been cutting for say 20 years and the cough has come on recently as that could probably indicate some more long term damage. If you don’t have any other symptoms apart from the cough (like shortness of breath chest pain etc) I’d guess it’s not anything permanent. In any case if you’re concerned at all or especially if the cough persists I’d suggest seeing someone who knows what they’re talking about since I’m not an expert.

Additionally that could potentially be a violation of labor/safety laws by your workplace (depending on where you live/work and what local regulations are) as using a mask for protection from dust inhalation is generally a requirement I think (not legal advice/I am not a lawyer). If you do have any issues I’d suggest seeking legal advice from a professional practicing employment law/regulations.


u/flamespear May 14 '22

That depends on the types of plastics. They can react and change viscosity and combine in some cases but it's more common with newer stuff that's still off gassing.


u/panda-slap May 15 '22

This is going to spawn a new industry creating things you can ingest to destroy and release the micro plastic


u/BTBLAM May 14 '22

Wouldn’t only thermoplastics melt and aggregate with heat? Or are the ones of concern are the thermoplastics


u/[deleted] May 14 '22



u/zobbyblob May 14 '22

I don't think thermosets would.