Arteries contained nanoplastics, doctors found. Their existence increased heart disease risk.

New research reveals microplastics and nanoplastics in plaque along a major neck blood vessel may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and mortality.

Only advanced microscopes can view nanoplastics. Microplastics are 5 mm or less. They have been found in Antarctica's new snowfall, the Marianas Trench, blood, breast milk, urine, placental, lung, and liver tissue in recent years.

Dr. Raffaele Marfella, a cardiology researcher at Naples' University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli's department of advanced medical and surgical sciences, said he and his colleagues sought new cardiovascular disease risk factors.

To assess the effects, they examined individuals scheduled for surgery for carotid artery stenosis, in which plaque or fatty deposits block blood flow. Two carotid arteries supply blood to the brain, face, and neck. Plaque from 257 patients was studied and monitored after 34 months following surgery.

The plaque of 150 patients contained primarily nanoplastics. At follow-up, 20% of those patients and 7.5% of those without plastic particles had nonfatal heart attacks, strokes, or deaths.

After controlling for age, sex, BMI, and health concerns including diabetes and high cholesterol, Marfella discovered that people with detectable plastics had “nearly a five times greater risk of a cardiovascular event”.

Many cell and animal research show plastic particles aggravate illness. A February online Journal of Hazardous Materials study identified microplastics in human arteries.

Dick Vethaak, biologist and toxicologist at Utrecht University's Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences and Dutch Microplastics and Human Health Consortium coordinator, says this study “the first of its kind.” Prior research detected tiny particles in human tissue.

Vethaak, who is not involved in the current study, said, “It is the first one that looked at a large number of donors in so much detail” and tracked patients' health for years.

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