Do Masks Contribute to the Problem of Microplastics in Lung Tissue?

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    Researchers in the United Kingdom sampling human lung tissue identified 39 types of microplastics in 11 of 13 tissue samples from patients undergoing surgery. The most commonly found was polypropylene, which is also the most common material used to make masks. This Hull York School of Medicine study sampled human lung tissue using micro Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (micro FTIR).

    The most commonly found microplastics were polypropylene (23%), polyethylene terephthalate (18%) and resin (15%). Tissue from male donors contained almost six times more microplastics than tissue from female donors. It was thought that only particles smaller than 3 micrometers (µm) can enter the alveolar region of the lung. However, the particles observed in this study were up to 1410 µm (1.4 mm) in length. Likewise, another groundbreaking study revealed the presence of microplastics in human blood.

    What does this have to do with masks?

    They will have to investigate a bit more. However, the disposable surgical masks that now decorate the world’s beaches, rivers and wilderness after having decorated billions of human faces are also made from polystyrene and polyethylene composites. But the most common material in these is polypropylene, due to its ease of industrial handling. That was the most common microplastic found by UK researchers in lung tissue samples.

    Epidemiologists Boris Borovoy, Q Makeeta, and I were the first (to our knowledge) to warn in peer-reviewed research about this health hazard from inhaled microplastics and nanoplastics from disposable surgical masks. We also discuss the friable nature of particles adhering to surgical masks. Here are some of the photos we took of surgical masks under a light microscope, at 40x to 100x magnification and no magnification.

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