The meat you buy in the store may be contaminated with microplastics. A recent study by Free University of Amsterdam found microplastics in the bloodstreams of pigs and cows for the first time. The findings have sparked questions over public health, with experts expressing fears over contaminants possibly affecting the entire food chain.
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Previous studies have found microplastics in vegetables, birds and sea animals, but this is the first time plastic particles have been found in farm animals’ blood. According to Dr. Heather Leslie, the study’s lead researcher and an expert in microplastics, “hundreds of other animals also have microplastics in their bodies. But in cows and pigs, it had not been discovered before.”
Related: New study finds microplastics in fruits and vegetables
The study included 12 cows and six pigs, all of which tested positive for the presence of microplastics. According to Dr. Leslie, microplastics in the soil likely found their way into crops eaten by animals. Since the particles cannot be broken down by the body, they remain in the bloodstream for years.
Microplastics are already present in water, soil, air, and food. Scientists are now taking a closer look at the impact of these contaminants. Several studies have linked the particles to health complications such as immune overreaction, inflammation and increased risk of heart disease.
“If you want to assess the risks, you first have to know what the actual exposure is and how toxic it is. If we are above the values that are still safe and responsible, then we have to do something about it,” Leslie said.
Researchers now say that humans must act to determine the extent of plastic pollution in the food chain to protect both animals and humans. “It is in the interest of animal and human health protection to further explore this nascent signal of plastic pollution exposure in the food chain,” Leslie said.