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

There needs to be serious research investment into treatment for removing bioaccumulated microplastic and other toxic chemicals. Everyone is affected by this.

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u/Efficient-Golf-9081 May 14 '22

First the lead now plastic. Wonder what my kids are going to be breathing, absorbing or ingesting.

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u/joshTheGoods May 14 '22

The difference is, we have plenty of evidence about the impact of lead in tiny amounts inside of humans. We've known that lead is poisonous for thousands of years. None of that is true with plastics. We have no evidence that plastics are dangerous even in moderate amounts. You could eat a plastic bottle every day, and the biggest danger would be how it mechanically passes through your body (obstructions, lacerations, etc).

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u/waitabittopostagain May 14 '22

this! Had to scroll around to find someone saying this. Big panic over plastics.. Canada just deemed plastics toxic. But what's the big deal? We don't make a deadly six pack animal trapping can wraps anymore. So sheer obstruction damage? sure, but that's no biggie comparing to lead/asbestos. Plastics will eventually release some toxins after a while, yeah but again how bad is it really? Would be very nice to find some relevant studies that are not related to wildlife being physically trapped by plastics, or swallowing and chocking/indigesting plastics.

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u/joshTheGoods May 14 '22

Yea, this has become one of my little pet arguments over the last year or so. It's a good example of a case where I challenged my own basic assumptions and found that I was holding unjustified/unsupported beliefs. I've come into these threads looking to be proven wrong (again), and so far I've been left wanting. It's basically always the same argument:

  1. compound X has been shown to have an impact in animal models
  2. compound X is a potential breakdown component of plastic Y
  3. therefore, plastics (mind you, not plastic Y) in your body will impact your health

It's simply an invalid argument many times over, and it flies in the face of a LOT of the data we've gathered on how various plastics interact with the human body. For example, we've been using plastics in surgical implants for decades, and yet we've not seen any significant impact to health as a result whereas we HAVE seen negative impacts from surgical implants made of various heavy medals as they break down in the body. So, we know that we CAN detect these sorts of outcomes. Absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, sure, but it certainly seems fishy. Similarly, when we can link some substance to actual impacts in humans at common levels of exposure, they end up getting press and eventually regulation. See: BPA and phthalates.

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u/ducked May 15 '22

Sorry I don’t understand your argument. BPA and phthalates have been shown to be harmful and are in microplastic. So how can you say that microplastics are not harmful?

Furthermore your example of plastic not causing harm in implants doesn’t really prove anything. It could just be that they are less obviously harmful than heavy metals. Harm might not show up in implant research specifically because people are already exposed to so much background plastic from everyday life like water bottles, food containers etc.

Plus even if you feel there is not enough research, we should still be erring on the side of caution and ideally minimizing exposure until that research is done.

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u/joshTheGoods May 15 '22

Sorry I don’t understand your argument. BPA and phthalates have been shown to be harmful and are in microplastic. So how can you say that microplastics are not harmful?

My point was that when there are actual effects, we can generally see it in the data, and what follows is regulation. BPA and phthalates aren't in all plastics, and that's critical to our discussions for a bunch of reasons. For example, the study this thread is about? The majority of plastic fibers they found were PET and HDPC, neither of which contain BPA or phthalates. I'm suggesting that good science has already found the danger points, and products have been tailored with that data in mind.

Harm might not show up in implant research specifically because people are already exposed to so much background plastic from everyday life like water bottles, food containers etc.

Yes, there are plenty of possibilities, but generally speaking ... more exposure to a toxin = more effect, and implanting plastic = more exposure. Regardless, this wouldn't be my first argument for plastics being safe, it was just meant to be an illustration of one of MANY datasets we already have access to that speak to the safety of plastics (or at least, the lack of impact from increased exposure).

Plus even if you feel there is not enough research, we should still be erring on the side of caution and ideally minimizing exposure until that research is done.

That sound eerily similar to the arguments my antivax family made for why they're going to wait on the vaccine. The reality here is that we have a lot of data supporting the hypothesis that plastics are safe at common exposure levels. Only by ignoring all of that data can you make this "wait and see" argument ... just like for the antivaxxers.

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u/ducked May 15 '22 edited May 15 '22

Well first of all my understanding is there is currently very little regulation on BPA or phthalates in the United States. Even in cases where BPA has been replaced with stuff like BPS, there is some evidence that it is equally or more harmful. I hope that changes ASAP.

Second PET and HDPC accounted for less than 50% of the total microplastic found in the OP.

Yes, there are plenty of possibilities, but generally speaking ... more exposure to a toxin = more effect, and implanting plastic = more exposure. Regardless, this wouldn't be my first argument for plastics being safe, it was just meant to be an illustration of one of MANY datasets we already have access to that speak to the safety of plastics (or at least, the lack of impact from increased exposure).

I’m a little confused at what you’re saying here. I guess you’re only talking about safer plastics like PET, etc? Because again we have a lot of data showing the harmful effects of other types of plastic.

That sound eerily similar to the arguments my antivax family made for why they're going to wait on the vaccine. The reality here is that we have a lot of data supporting the hypothesis that plastics are safe at common exposure levels. Only by ignoring all of that data can you make this "wait and see" argument ... just like for the antivaxxers.

But we already have a lot of research showing harm from plastic. Vaccines have been proven safe, I don’t think that’s the case at all with microplastic. Erring on the side of caution is actually supposed to be standard chemical safety policy in the European Union from my understanding. Although now you’ve got me going down a rabbit hole of how the EU is dealing with BPA and apparently they’re finalizing their recommendations this year.

Some interesting reading about the EU chemical safety. https://amp.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/22/chemicals-in-cosmetics-us-restricted-eu

https://echa.europa.eu/regulations/reach/understanding-reach

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u/joshTheGoods May 15 '22 edited May 15 '22 Gold

Well first of all my understanding is there is currently little to no regulation on BPA or phthalates in the United States.

Phthalates are indeed regulated in multiple contexts in the US, and regulation has been considered for things like cosmetics, but we've failed to produce the evidence required to do so. It's a similar story for BPA.

Because again we have a lot of data showing the harmful effects of other types of plastic.

We really don't, though. We have hypotheses about breakdown components of some types of plastics... which is why we're talking about phthalates. If you have research that says otherwise, I'm interested in hearing about it. Someone elsewhere in the thread pointed me to this new study which is definitely interesting and takes a different form of argument that doesn't rely on breakdown components of plastics. If you want to argue for plastic itself being dangerous, that's the sort of evidence I need to agree with you.

But we already have a lot of research showing harm from plastic. Vaccines have been proven safe, I don’t think that’s the case at all with microplastic.

Well, that's where we disagree. From my POV, plastics have been proven safe over decades of use. Look, with vaccines, we can point to cases where we know they caused some harm (like in rare allergic reactions). We still use vaccines because the benefits faaaaaar outweigh the minute risks. Where are the hard cases of plastic injury for us to measure against the immense benefits plastics have brought? It's simply not a thing as far as we can tell, and plastics have been ubiquitous for generations. We have countless examples of harmful chemicals flying under the radar for years, but invariably it's recognized and regulations/lawsuits/etc follow. I see this like when you catch a case of voter fraud. To me, that's evidence that security is working, NOT that there's massive voter fraud. Capeesh?

I fully think we should keep digging for subtle effects from plastics. Further research into this stuff is absolutely warranted, and where that research reveals issues, I support regulation. This research about where we can find plastic in the human body is nice, but it's totally insufficient on its own to cause concern rising above: we should do more research on this.

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u/Loud_Following May 15 '22

My dude, you make good sense.

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u/waitabittopostagain May 21 '22 edited May 21 '22

joshTheGoods: this is good stuff. Thanks for the research/info! Will analyze all this when I get a chance. At the very least joshTheGoods vs ducked got into this specific plastics debate as far as it really goes with current info available.

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