A new study reveals that microplastics from textiles could make it harder for lungs of those impacted by health conditions like COVID-19 to mend. The study was conducted collaboratively by researchers from Groningen University, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research. While making the findings public on Plastic Health Channel, the researchers explained that they have found both nylon and polyester to negatively affect cell regeneration in the lungs.

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Humans are repeatedly exposed to microplastics. Last year, a study published in the journal Nature revealed that heated baby bottles release millions of microplastics. A different study also linked fruits and vegetables to high levels of microplastics. With so many people already exposed to microplastics, the researchers warn that these particles may present serious risks to our lungs.

Related: One plastic teabag could release billions of microplastics into your cup

“A virus damages the lungs so you need repair, and if your lungs are filled with fibers that are inhibiting this repair then you are in for another problem in addition to COVID-19,” said professor Barbro Melgert, principal investigator of the research.

In the study, the researchers exposed air sac and airway organoids to microplastics over a period of 14 days. The results showed that plastic fibers may affect the development of growing lungs and the repair process of damaged lungs. The researchers mainly focused on nylon and polyester, noting that they are the most common types of microplastics found indoors.

“More than half of the clothes we wear are made of materials like polyester,” said Laura Díaz Sánchez, Ocean Clean Wash campaigner. “The problem with clothes made from materials such as polyester, with fibers which are short and spikey, is they get released much easier and then they are up in the air in this dust.”

This research now sheds more light on the effects of microplastics on human health and provides grounds for proper personal precaution and policy development.

+ Plastic Soup Foundation

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