Researchers have found tiny bits of plastic lodged deep inside live humans' lungs for the very first time, and they say it's definitely a cause for concern.
The U.K.-based doctors studied 13 lung tissue samples and found microplastics in 11 of the samples, according to their study published in the Science of the Total Environment Journal. They say microplastics have been found in people's lungs before, but never this far down and not in the bodies of living people.
As the name suggests, microplastics are tiny bits of plastic debris that have been ground up into fine bits over time. They're known to be harmful to ocean life, and now they're also showing up in everything from rain to the human bloodstream.
The researchers found several types of microplastics that can be traced back to products such as bottles, packaging, clothing and twine, according to a news release by the Hull York Medical School."This data provides an important advance in the field of air pollution, microplastics and human health," Dr. Laura Sadofsky, one of the paper's lead authors, said in the news release. "Lung airways are very narrow so no one thought they could possibly get down there, but they clearly have.
She added that now that researchers know the microplastics are there, they can begin studying their impact on human health.
Approximately 300 million metric tons of plastic are produced by the world in a single year, and 80% of it ends up in landfills, according to the United Nations.
And that plastic doesn't just go away. Instead, it breaks down into tinier and tinier pieces and eventually flows into the environment and — it seems — into us.