Micro-Sized Particles of Polyethylene Show Negative Impacts on Cells.
Exposure to high doses of micro-sized polyethylene may have negative consequences for cells A new study by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland finds.
Researchers examined the toxic effects of micro-sized polyethylene in two distinct human cancer cells. As one of the most used plastics, polyethylene is utilized to serve a myriad of functions including packaging material.
Exposure to large doses of polyethylene is known to reduce the viability of cells and boost the number of reactive oxygen species within mitochondria within cells which are essential organelles that produce energy.
Humans are exposed daily to different microplastics every day
Microplastic particles are smaller than 5 millimeters in diameter. They are manufactured by, eg. products from the cosmetics industry however, they also form by the degradation and fragmentation of plastic particles.
The majority of microplastics that we encounter in our daily lives are the result of dirt from car tires, synthetic grass, and washes of clothes made from synthetic fibers.
The human body is exposed to microplastics principally through food and air while the exposure can be commonplace but the health consequences of microplastics are largely unexplored.
Polyethylene particles have caused adverse reactions in human colorectal cancer cells culture
Microplastics are absorbed into our bodies, particularly through the digestive tract. In this study, the researchers looked into the harmful impacts of small-sized polyethylene within the two cancerous human varieties.
In addition to the raw polyethylene that had not been treated Researchers also employed the polyethylene that was treated using ethanol in order to find out the effects of treatment on the toxicity of particles. In the lab, cells are exposed to particles of plastic for 48 hours, at various dosages.
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Untreated, raw polyethylene and polyethylene treated with ethanol caused cell death in cell culture in high doses. The viability of cells was determined by two different methods that yielded the same results.
Researchers also examined the generation of reactive oxygen species following exposure. The reactive oxygen species can be generated in cells, however, exposure to different conditions can also increase their numbers, causing adverse consequences like DNA damage.
A higher production of oxygen species was seen particularly inside mitochondria i.e. those organelles that produce energy for cells.
Further research on microplastics is needed to evaluate their health effects
The findings of the study are consistent with earlier research which suggested that microplastic particles could cause adverse health effects for humans.
“However the range of microplastics is extremely broad and their impact can be very different in relation to, for example, the type of polymer and its size and shape” the paper’s lead author Postdoctoral researcher Mikko Herrala, from the School of Pharmacy at the University of Eastern Finland says.
“To be able to accurately evaluate the health risk of microplastics, it is essential to have more data on the health consequences and mechanisms of the various kinds and forms of microplastics at both the cellular level as well as in animals.
We need information regarding human exposure to microplastics as well as the subsequent effects on the health of humans,” Herrala concludes.