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Unlikely Organs That Harbor Microplastics in Humans and Dogs

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By Erika John - - 5 Mins Read
Several bits of microplastics on a finger
Microplastic samples | Shutterstock

In a recent publication in Toxicological Sciences, researchers found microplastics in the testicles of both humans and dogs.

This widespread presence of microplastics has sparked concerns about its potential impact on male fertility.

The research highlighted the alarming discovery of microplastics in testicular tissue, shedding light on potential risks to human fertility.

These results underscore the urgent need for more in-depth investigations into the impact of microplastics on reproductive health.

Microplastics are plastic fragments smaller than 5 millimeters and originate from discarded consumer items like plastic bottles and food packages. They are also produced while manufacturing various products, such as auto parts and toys.

Plastic waste in oceans and landfills leaks microplastics into water sources via runoff. Plastic bubbles on the ocean's surface also release microplastics into the air.

Moreover, microplastics enter the human body through food consumption.

Chinese scientists found thousands of tons of microplastics on farmland and human hearts during surgery, and Italian researchers discovered plastics in fish.

According to research in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, containers, especially when heated, can release microplastics into food.

This number likely increases significantly for those with highly processed diets.

Microplastics were first discovered in human blood in 2022 by researchers in the Netherlands, with particles found in nearly 80% of test subjects.

Microplastics Found in Testicles

In a comprehensive investigation, scientists discovered and examined 12 distinct varieties of microplastics found in samples from the testicles of 47 dogs and 23 humans.

The primary plastic identified was polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is commonly used in everyday products such as plastic bags and bottles. It was closely followed by polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Comparing Microplastics in Dogs and Humans

A noteworthy discovery was the substantial difference in microplastic levels between human and dog testicles.

Surprisingly, human testicles contained over three times more microplastics than their canine counterparts.


Pieces of microplastics | Shutterstock

Specifically, the mean total microplastic levels per gram of tissue were 122.63 µg/g in dogs and 328.44 µg/g in humans, underscoring a significant variation in microplastic accumulation across species.

However, researchers cautioned against drawing definitive conclusions due to the significant variability in microplastic levels among individuals.

This variability indicates a wide range of microplastic accumulation within the testicular samples. Moreover, the study's inability to conduct sperm counts on preserved human testicles limited its ability to understand the findings comprehensively.

Correlation Between Microplastics and Sperm Counts

Despite the limitations, the study unveiled intriguing correlations between microplastic exposure and reproductive health.

Specifically, higher levels of PVC in dog testicles were associated with decreased sperm counts, suggesting a potential impact on fertility.

Similarly, a negative correlation emerged between certain polymers, such as PVC and PET, and the normalized weight of the testis, indicating a possible influence of microplastics on testicular health.

Potential Impact on Fertility

While these correlations offer valuable insights, they do not conclusively prove a direct causal relationship between elevated microplastic levels and reduced fertility.

Nonetheless, researchers highlighted the potential threat posed by PVC particles, which can release chemicals that disrupt spermatogenesis, the process of sperm cell production.

This underscores the importance of further research to elucidate the mechanisms through which microplastics may affect reproductive health.