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Scientists find evidence of concerning connection to kidney disease: 'It is of great significance'

"Modern society is facing a serious problem."

"Modern society is facing a serious problem."

Photo Credit: iStock

A new study has provided the first evidence that exposure to polystyrene microplastics can lead to chronic kidney disease in mammals.

What happened?

A group of scientists tested the effects of polystyrene microplastics on a small group of mice, who received them orally. The researchers found that these tiny plastic particles induced chronic kidney disease by impairing the gut barrier.

"Modern society is facing a serious problem of microplastics pollution, which can potentially pose threats to human health through various exposure routes," the paper said. "Therefore, it is of great significance to investigate the microplastics' potential toxicity and the underlying mechanisms."

Why is this research concerning?

Microplastics have become prevalent in the foods and beverages we consume. One study found that 90% of worldwide salt brands contain these tiny plastic particles. Another study found them in nearly 90% of samples of protein-rich foods like tofu, beef, seafood, and chicken. Plus, scientists recently discovered that an average one-liter bottle of water sold in the United States could have around 240,000 plastic particles floating around in it. Microplastics have also been detected in produce and even human breast milk.

They're already in our bodies, too — scientists have discovered microplastics in human organs, placentas, and blood.  

Unfortunately, scientists do not fully understand the consequences of exposure to all these minuscule plastics. However, they could contribute to the development of health problems like cancer, neurodevelopmental disorders, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's Disease, and food allergies.

What's being done about microplastics?

Microplastics and even smaller nanoplastics are created when larger plastic items — water bottles, food containers, and the like — break down over time. Naturally, one way to reduce the amount of microplastics in our environment is to reduce our plastic consumption. 

To this end, a number of governments and companies are working to make a change. For instance, England and France have banned plastic cutlery for most fast food and takeout meals. And India banned a selection of single-use plastics in 2022.

Meanwhile, new research shows that alternatives to plastic are becoming more popular — these include materials made of recycled seaweed and fungus. Scientists have even discovered how to break down plastic using hungry wax worms.

You can also make a difference by curbing your own plastic use — swap out bottled water for a reusable container, use a reusable shopping bag, and skip on single-use cutlery when you eat out.

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