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You won’t believe the latest place they found microplastics

Published Jun 21st, 2024 8:17PM EDT
Stem cells operation
Image: Vadim / Adobe

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Microplastics are everywhere. We’ve come to tacitly accept them as a side effect of our behavior toward the planet. Therefore, microplastics are within us as we eat and drink the pollutants, whether we like it or not.

It’s unsurprising, therefore, to hear that medical professionals keep finding microplastics inside the human body. The latest discovery raises questions about erectile dysfunction, as doctors found microplastics inside the human penis for the first time. Four out of five patients undergoing surgery to treat the medical condition tested positive for various microplastics.

The groundbreaking research drops just weeks after two similar studies were published. New research from the US in mid-May showed the presence of microplastics in every human testicle in that study. A few days earlier, scientists from China published a study that details the detection of microplastics in every sample of semen tested.

Combined, the three papers indicate that microplastics might impact not just the ability of the penis to develop erections but also impact human reproduction.

According to The Guardian, the mid-June study looked at tissue samples from five men undergoing erectile dysfunction surgery. Specifically, the men received inflatable penile prosthesis, which is a treatment option for patients with severe erectile dysfunction.

The researchers found microplastics in four cases. PET and polypropylene were the most prevalent. These are the types of plastics you’d find everywhere, as they’re used to package food and drink products, among other things. Therefore, exposure to microplastics from these sources is inevitable. The scientists have identified seven times of microplastics in the penile tissue samples.

The microplastics were present in the smooth muscle of the penis. They measured between 0.002mm and 0.5mm. Dr Ranjith Ramasamy from the University of Miami led the research, telling The Guardian that the presence of microplastics in that particular tissue might lead to smooth muscle dysfunction.

The penis might be particularly vulnerable to microplastic contamination considering the high amount of blood that’s passing through. Blood powers erections and blood transports all sorts of particles from one place to the other in the human body. Once we ingest microplastics, some of them might get into the bloodstream.

That’s not to say that the presence of microplastics in men’s sexual reproduction organs will cause erectile dysfunction. Similarly, the detection of microplastics in semen and testis isn’t enough to conclude that male fertility is at risk mainly because of these pollutants.

But these hypotheses can’t be ruled out. Microplastics might be a danger to human reproduction. More research is needed to determine the exact role of this pollutant in sexual reproduction.

But even without additional research proving the exact effects of microplastics on a particular organ, it’s abundantly clear that having microplastics in our bodies isn’t good. The pollutants might impact various functions by their mere presence. We’ll have to find ways to reduce our collective exposure to plastics, as well as means to eliminate builds up from our bodies, if that’s even possible.

The full study is available in the International Journal of Impotence Research.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.