Microplastics Discovered in Vascular Tissue for the First Time

Feb. 23, 2023
Two of the most common types could come from food packaging, may cause failure of bypass surgery.

Researchers from England’s University of Hull for the first time discovered microplastics in human tissue. And two of the most common types could come from food packaging.

While microplastics were previously discovered in the bloodstream, this is the first indication they can pass to human tissue through blood vessels.

“Whilst we don’t yet know the implications of this on human health, what we can say is that from studies using cells grown in dishes, they cause inflammation and stress-responses,” said Professor Jeanette Rotchell, one of the researchers.

“The presence of these microplastics in the veins may well play a role in damaging the inside of the vein leading to it becoming blocked with the passage of time,” added Professor Mahmoud Loubani. “We do need to identify if there is any correlation and figure out ways of maybe removing the microplastics.”

The team from the University of Hull worked with Hull York Medical School and Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. They analyzed human saphenous vein tissue taken from patients undergoing heart bypass surgery in a small pilot study. Saphenous veins are blood vessels in the legs that help send blood from the legs and feet back up to the heart. They’re often used in coronary artery bypass surgery.

Scientists found 15 microplastic particles per gram of vein tissue, coming from five different polymer types. Two of the most prominent included:

  • Polyvinyl acetate (PVAC)- An adhesive found in food packaging, shipping boxes/bags and binders for paper, plastics and foils.
  • Nylon and EVOH-EVA - Used to bond plastic polymers to create flexible packaging materials, with blends optimized to improve their characteristics such as helping to prevent moisture intrusion or tensile qualities. Applications include many uses from food packaging and lamination to multi-layer pipe, wire, and cable.

Until now, no studies have examined whether microplastics can infiltrate or cross any biological barrier, including blood vessels, or examined any potential link between environmental microplastic exposure and coronary bypass outcomes. See the full report here.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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