Researchers from the Department of Pathology of the Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo (FMUSP) reached unprecedented results in one of their studies: the detection, quantification and chemical characterization of microplastics in the lung. The work was recognized and approved on May 12, 2021, by the international scientific publication Journal of Hazardous Materials (impact factor: 9.04), which should publish the article in its next issue.

"We are the first group in the world to obtain and publish these conclusions", says researcher Luís Fernando Amato Lourenço, from the Department of Pathology of FMUSP.

Previous studies have shown that microplastics are present in the air of large metropolises and that people were inhaling these particles/fibers. A literary review ( with the main findings and possible effects on human health was made by the same research group, and published in the journal Science of The Total Environment (STOTEN), from Elsevier, in August of last year. Now, with the improvement of methodology techniques, access to samples of human lung tissue and other overcome challenges , within the same project, which is funded by the Research Foundation of  the State of São Paulo - FAPESP, “we can prove that microplastics are present in the air, can be inhaled by humans and reach the lungs", declared Prof. Thais Mauad, from the Department of Pathology of FMUSP.

“The topic of microplastics and human health is still extremely recent. With the results showing that different types of microplastics reach the human respiratory system, scholars on the subject will be able to work on elucidating what are the potential adverse effects of these compounds in one’s health. This is precisely the next step in our research at FMUSP”, said Luís F. Amato Lourenço.

At the moment, this same group of scientists is already monitoring the air of the city of São Paulo, precisely to measure how much of these particles are present both outdoors and indoors. "This quantification was never previously held in the city. Monitoring is being carried out in the USP Faculty of Medicine”, says researcher Regiani Carvalho Oliveira, from the Department of Pathology of FMUSP.

Particles and fibers detected in the lung
Microplastics are so small that they cannot be seen without the aid of a microscope