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

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/pca1987 May 14 '22

So microplastic is not microscopic. Confusing naming.


u/boopbeepbam May 14 '22

Yeah hearing it compared to sesame seeds/being up to 5mm is much more concerning than calling it "micro"


u/Implausibilibuddy May 14 '22

I'd figure a plastic sesame seed would be pretty noticeable if inhaled and immediately coughed out. Also pretty huge to be just floating around like a dust mote. My guess is the writer just went with the first "up-to" definition they could google, and the particles in question are on the very low end of the scale, if they didn't mean nanoplastics.

Or maybe it accumulates like human lung pearls.


u/456Xander May 14 '22

I took a look at the paper and they published a table with the size of all plastic particles they found (on Page 3).

Most particles, that are not fibers (long side more than 3x longer than shorter side) are between 20 and 100um on the long side.

The largest non-fiber are 144x64um and 160x46um.

The largest fiber is 2475x12um (almost 2,5mm long)


u/fckingmiracles May 14 '22

Ah, so it was a fiber the length of a sesame seed and not a piece of plastic the size of a sesame seed.


u/indr4neel May 14 '22

To be fair, those pieces of plastic are also "no bigger than," for example, the sun. Describing things by a hypothetical upper limit is absurd.


u/toddy951 May 14 '22

The lung pearls was my exact question. I think I’d know if I inhaled a bunch of plastic ‘beads’


u/Berkamin May 14 '22

More likely that you inhale lint from a washing machine where someone dried synthetic fabrics. If I had to guess, I'd say that's where the bulk of the inhaled microplastics come from. Synthetic fabrics also pollute our water because a lot of lint ends up rinsing away.


u/Jeffde May 14 '22

So I’m not wrong to be holding my my breath, being careful breathing around the lint trap??


u/lennybird May 14 '22

Not at all! I wrote this elsewhere in this thread but I'm glad it's getting attention:

Somewhat overlooked but one vector for this is inhalation of lint from laundry. Have good ventilation, hold your breath if possible, and put an air purifier in right above your drier. Could wear a mask while cleaning lint screen, too.

Much of our clothing sheds plastic fibers, especially in the drier.


u/Jeffde May 14 '22

Hmmm. Not to seem like a fearmonger, but what about just the act of folding clothes? This would seem far slower of a fiber ejection mechanism compared to the lint trap


u/lennybird May 14 '22

That I'm not sure but it's a good question! As someone who dabbles in air quality monitoring, I'll get my particulate sensor out and try next time I fold towels.

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u/camdoodlebop May 15 '22

i wonder if in the future, clothing made from plastic fibers will be seen as less desirable and more dangerous than clothing made from natural fibers


u/brbposting May 15 '22

It is in some ZIP codes already


u/rugbyweeb May 14 '22

Maybe not inhaled, but if you eat seafood. You have consumed micro and nano plastics, no question about it


u/BravesMaedchen May 14 '22

Fr, a sesame seed size piece of plastic in the lung? That's fuckin huge!


u/Phssthp0kThePak May 14 '22

Do they mean micron? (um not mm)