First evidence of human exposure to microplastic through breathing indoor air

Simulating human exposure to indoor airborne microplastics using a Breathing Thermal Manikin

Researcher Alvise Vianello’s scientific report suggests that when we spend time indoors we are probably filling up our lungs with tiny plastic particles shed by all the plastic stuff filling our apartments, vice reports. Image credit Erica Cirino.

2019 Study Abstract

Humans are potentially exposed to microplastics through food, drink, and air. The first two pathways have received quite some scientific attention, while little is known about the latter. We address the exposure of humans to indoor airborne microplastics using a Breathing Thermal Manikin. Three apartments were investigated, and samples analysed through FPA-µFTIR-Imaging spectroscopy followed by automatic analyses down to 11 µm particle size. All samples were contaminated with microplastics, with concentrations between 1.7 and 16.2 particles m−3. Synthetic fragments and fibres accounted, on average, for 4% of the total identified particles, while nonsynthetic particles of protein and cellulose constituted 91% and 4%, respectively. Polyester was the predominant synthetic polymer in all samples (81%), followed by polyethylene (5%), and nylon (3%). Microplastics were typically of smaller size than nonsynthetic particles. As the identified microplastics can be inhaled, these results highlight the potential direct human exposure to microplastic contamination via indoor air.

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