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Researchers Find Microplastic Particles in Lungs; Face Masks Might be Source


They stop short of mentioning face masks as potential source of lung contamination; even though those masks do contain micro-plastics and were widely used for 2 years

By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, May 4, 2022

      In 2021, researchers in the United Kingdom looked at lung tissue obtained from lung samples and found microplastics in all regions of the lungs, including the deeper section. According to the study, this is the first time microplastics have been found in human lung tissue samples using μFTIR spectroscopy.  The abundance of microplastics within samples, significantly above that of blanks, supports human inhalation as a route of environmental exposure. Microplastics with dimensions as small as 4 μm but also, surprisingly,  greater than 2mm were identified within all lung region samples, with the majority being fibrous and fragmented.  While the cloth/disposable surgical face masks people wore continuously for 8 hours a day or longer throughout the COVID plannedemic do contain microplastics, the researchers hesitated to indicate an actual source for the contamination of the lungs with microplastics.

   The report, published in the scientific journal, Science of the Total Environment was entitled Detection of Microplastics in Human Lung Tissue using μFTIR Spectroscopy.1  It was conducted by researchers at the Hull York Medical School and the Department of Biological and Marine Sciences at the University of Hull, in the UK and was assisted by the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, UK.  They found the microplastic levels within tissue samples were, “significantly higher than those identified within combined procedural/laboratory blanks” and that “polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate fibers were the most abundant.”  The report was accepted and published by the prestigious journal, Elsevier which is one of the oldest and most reputable scientific journal publishing houses in the world, so face mask supporters and “fact checkers” should avoid labeling the source as “conspiracy theory” or “medical misinformation.”

   Microplastics were identified within all regions of the lung, categorized as upper, middle/lingular and lower regions.  “This report provides compelling evidence of microplastics within human lung tissue samples, using a robust, best practice background contamination regime combined with μFTIR chemical composition analysis to verify the particles present.  The study also highlights the importance of including and evaluating contamination adjustments within microplastic research, while providing high levels of quality assurance control.”

   The study also reported that the fibers were distributed throughout all regions of the lung and were not confined to the large air spaces.

   The researchers identified 39 microplastics in 11 of the 13 lung tissue samples in the study, with an average of 3 microplastics per sample.  There were 12 types of microplastic found in samples.

   The 4 microplastics present in the most considerable quantities were:


- polypropylene (PP): found in carpets, clothing, automotive plastics, and surgical face masks

- polyethylene terephthalate (PET): present in clothing, beverage, and food containers and some cloth face masks

- resin: a constituent of protective coating and paints

- polyethylene (PE): a component of food wrappers, milk containers, toys, and detergent bottles


   “Our findings are also in line with a recent publication by Amato-Lourenco et al. who also found polypropylene to be amongst the most abundant plastics identified,” the authors of the report stated.

   The researchers in this study noted the potential for adverse health effects in those who have microplastic contamination in their lungs, “Historical studies report respiratory symptoms and disease at an occupational level of exposure in synthetic textile, flock and vinyl chloride workers...Microplastics are designed to be robust materials, unlikely to break down within the lungs.  The mounting concern surrounding airborne microparticles stems from the unknown polymer types, levels of exposure, and consequences of their inhalation.”

   While this report centered around environmental and household exposure levels, the fact remains that cloth and surgical face masks containing these microplastic particles became integrated into daily life to stop respiratory virus transmission, which the devices were never designed, or ever intended, to do.  Thus, the minimal protection the face masks offered from the respiratory virus, SARS-CoV-2 may be outweighed by the negative health impacts of breathing microplastic particles into the lungs for many hours a day for more than two years - a use these face masks were also never designed or intended to be used for.

   The researchers noted how the presence of microplastics in the lungs have been associated with histological lung cancer samples but there haven't been enough studies in this field of research to know what the long term effects might be.  “Microplastic particles in the full micro-size range (10 μm-5mm) have yet to be considered in terms of health implications and potential impacts, perhaps not having been a priority compared with the smaller, ultrafine particles.”

   Once in the lungs, the researchers noted these plastic particles do not break down.  “Microplastics, like all macroplastics, are designed to be resilient, with the addition of dyes, and additives that dictate their properties.  It had previously been suggested that inhaled microplastics are likely to bio-persist and possibly accumulate within a lung environment, showing resilience to degradation by synthetic extracellular lung fluid after 180 days.  After deposition within the lung, mechanisms of toxicity are unknown but particle properties such as small size, density, concentration, shape, monomer type, chemical leachates and environmental adsorbents (e.g. bacteria, heavy metals and polyaromatic hydrocarbons) have all been suggested as potential contributors to cytotoxicity.  Inflammation, physical damage from particle shape, frustrated phagocytosis, are currently suggested cellular responses to microplastic exposure.”

   Of the report, the Free Thought Project noted, “In 2020, the amount of disposable face masks littered into the environment increased by a staggering 9000 percent. Billions of people strapped polypropylene masks to their faces every day for two years and sucked their air through plastic fibers for 8 hours or more. To not have discovered plastic in lungs would have been surprising.”2