Environmentalists have been warning about plastic pollution for decades. But still, plastic has permeated our lives and every corner of our planet as it is ubiquitous - from milk cartons to window frames we manufacture a myriad of plastic materials. And now, researchers at University of Vienna have discovered that plastic can reach our brain. The findings are based on an experiment with mice in which they given drinking water containing plastic. Scientists were shocked to find that particles of plastic reached the mince's brain just two hours after they ingested it.
"Once in the brain, plastic particles could increase the risk of inflammation, neurological disorders or even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's," Lukas Kenner, one of the researchers, was quoted as saying in a statement by The Guardian.
However, he added that more research is needed to determine the relationship between plastics and these brain disorders.
The team of researchers also included experts from Austria, the US, Hungary, and the Netherlands. They were alarmed by the speed with which plastic reached the mice's brain by breaching the blood-brain barrier.
According to Science Alert, this barrier helps shield the brain from potential threats by blocking the passage of toxins and other undesirable things. So, it became imperative for the scientists to find the reason behind this behaviour.
"With the help of computer models, we discovered that a certain surface structure (biomolecular corona) was crucial in enabling plastic particles to pass into the brain," co-senior author of the study, Oldamur Holloczki, told Science Alert. Holloczki is a nanoplastics chemist at the University of Debrecen in Hungary.
In a published paper, the researcher said that only 0.293 micrometre-sized particles were able to be taken up from the gastrointestinal tract and penetrate the blood brain barrier.
Previous studies have shown that plastic has infiltrated most parts of the human body, including our blood, organs, placentas, breast milk and gastrointestinal systems.
Scientists have said that chemicals found in various types of plastic are known carcinogens and hormone-disruptors.