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Medicine and Health

Are “Plastic Attacks” on the Horizon?





Researchers have discovered microplastics in the fatty deposits that accumulate in certain individuals’ arteries, adding to the number of locations where these particles have been detected in the human body. Do these minuscule plastic fragments present any further danger to us? While not conclusive, this recent study indicates that they may.

Researchers initially enrolled individuals undergoing surgery for carotid artery disease, a condition characterized by the accumulation of plaque, consisting of fatty substances such as cholesterol, calcium, and various cells, in the arteries supplying blood to the brain.

The plaques were extracted during surgery and examined for microplastic and nanoplastic (MNP) presence. Among the 257 individuals examined, 150 of them had plaques that contained plastic polyethylene, a substance commonly used in the production of plastic bags and bottles.

However, in addition to that sort of plastic, 31 patients’ plaques contained polyvinyl chloride (PVC), commonly used in sewage pipes and imitation leather trousers.

Subsequently, the researchers examined plaque samples using a microscope to determine the size of the plastic shards. The pictures showed irregular fragments of foreign particles in the plaques, most of which were estimated to be less than one micrometer in size, which is smaller than one-50th of the diameter of an average human hair.

The discovery of MNPs in plaque is noteworthy, but what are the potential effects on the body? The researchers conducted a follow-up study on patients for almost three years. At the conclusion of that timeframe, it was discovered that patients with plaque containing MNPs had a 2.1 times higher likelihood of experiencing a heart attack, stroke, or death from any cause compared to those without plastic pieces.

However, the researchers emphasize that their data do not conclusively prove that microplastics were responsible for these health problems; as the saying goes, correlation does not imply causality. Various aspects in the patients’ health and habits, such as nutrition, exercise, and smoking, may have increased their likelihood of experiencing a stroke.

However, an editorial by epidemiologist Dr. Philip J. Landrigan accompanying the article indicates that the research prompts some pressing questions.

Is exposure to microplastics and nanoplastics a cardiovascular risk factor? Which other organs outside the heart are susceptible to risk? How can we minimize exposure? Landrigan writes.

We must await future studies to address those inquiries.

The research is featured in the New England Journal of Medicine.

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Medicine and Health

Toxic chemicals leak out of plastic bottles when they are exposed to sunlight





If you don’t want to drink a bunch of chemicals that could be harmful, keep your water bottle out of the sun. Plastic water bottles that are left out in the sun break down and release many different types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOCs are chemicals that evaporate quickly at room temperature. They are found in a lot of different products, like paints, cleaners, fuels, and solvents. They’re also made of plastic, like those used to make water bottles and food trucks. Many of them are safe, but some may be bad for your health in the short and long term.

In the most recent study, UV-A light and sunlight were used to test six different kinds of plastic water bottles in China. They discovered that this process let out a wide range of VOCs, such as acids, alcohols, aldehydes, and alkanes.

Some signs pointed to “highly toxic” VOCs, such as n-hexadecane, which is known to cause cancer.

A single sip of contaminated water doesn’t pose much of a health risk, but the researchers found that long-term exposure may pose a greater risk.

“Our results are strong proof that plastic bottles can release harmful chemicals into the air when they are exposed to sunlight.” “Consumers need to be aware of these risks, especially in places where bottled water is left out in the sun for long periods of time,” said Dr. Huase Ou, lead researcher from China’s Jinan University’s Guangdong Key Laboratory of Environmental Pollution and Health.

However, the researchers were quick to point out that the risk seems to be pretty low since the bottle only releases a small amount of chemicals.

“Given that a container weighs about 20 grams on average, the VOCs that were released from a single container were only a few nanograms.” So, even after long-term exposure, opening a bottle and drinking water from it doesn’t pose many health risks to people, the study’s authors write in the conclusion.

The bottles in the study were all made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is one of the most common types of plastic. However, the VOC composition and concentration of the different bottles were very different. The different production methods and additives seem to have something to do with this.

Most likely, the chemicals leaked out of the bottle because of a process called photodegradation. This is when light breaks down the structure of the plastic.

There are more things than just sunlight that you should think about when it comes to your plastic bottle’s “health.” A study from the past found that leaving water in a plastic bottle for just one day could let hundreds of chemicals get into your drink. Several of these chemicals are thought to be harmful to health, such as those that cause cancer or mess with the hormone system (endocrine disruptors).

In the same way, there is some evidence that heating plastic bottles might not be a good idea. A study done in 2020 found that the sterilization process recommended by the World Health Organization put between 1.3 and 16.2 million microplastic particles per liter into child bottles.

In the 21st century, plastic is found everywhere, from penises to ice in Antarctica. It was once thought to be mostly harmless, but it’s becoming clearer that it’s having a bad effect on us and the planet, and we’re only just beginning to understand how bad it is.

The study was published in the magazine Eco-Environment & Health.

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Medicine and Health

Microplastics have been detected in the male genitalia of humans for the first time





Researchers have recently discovered microplastics in human penises, expanding the list of body parts where these harmful particles have been detected.

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that are shorter than 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) and can originate from various sources, including plastic production or the breakdown of plastic objects. With their apparent penetration into every small space, some people are worried about the potential consequences for our well-being.

The initial phase of this process involves determining their presence within the body. Researchers from the University of Miami, the University of Colorado, and the research institution Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon embarked on a quest to ascertain whether these entities could be detected in penises.

In order to accomplish this, the team collected penile tissue samples from six individuals who were undergoing surgery to treat erectile dysfunction. One of the samples was used as a control for comparison. Subsequently, the samples were examined for microplastics using laser direct infrared (LDIR) microspectroscopy, a method that enables scientists to identify the types, sizes, and quantities of microplastics present.

The analysis indicated that microplastics were present in 80 percent of the samples, with sizes ranging from 20 to 500 micrometers. However, another microscopy technique detected some microplastics as small as 2 micrometers (equivalent to thousandths of a millimeter, for reference to their minuscule size).

The microplastics (MPs) consisted of seven distinct types, with polyethylene terephthalate being the most abundant at 47.8 percent. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of plastic, is frequently utilized in the manufacturing of clothing as well as packaging for food and beverages.

Polypropylene, accounting for 34.7 percent of the sample, emerged as the second most prevalent plastic. This versatile plastic is utilized in various applications, including rigid food packaging and plastic laboratory equipment.

The authors state that their study is a pioneering investigation into the existence of microplastics (MPs) in penile tissue. “Our research provides important information about the presence of MPs in human tissues, which contributes significantly to the ongoing discussion about the impact of environmental pollutants on human health.”

While this study represents the initial discovery of microplastics in penile tissue, previous findings have already identified their presence in the surrounding region. In a recent study, scientists discovered substantial amounts of microplastics in the testes of both humans and dogs. Additionally, another investigation revealed the presence of microplastics in all 36 semen samples examined by the researchers.

Scientists have consistently highlighted the need for further research, but they have indicated the potential impact of microplastics on reproductive health, specifically investigating the connection between microplastics and erectile dysfunction.

In an interview with Sky News, Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, the main researcher, stated that further investigation is needed to understand the mechanism behind the presence of microplastics in the penis.

The research is published in the International Journal of Impotence Research

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Medicine and Health

Long-Term COVID Risk Factors Found in Data from Almost 5,000 People





More information about who may be most likely to get a long-lasting illness has been found by looking at data from 4,700 people who have recovered from COVID-19. Scientists still don’t know exactly what causes the painful symptoms of long COVID—there are hundreds of possible causes—but this new study gives them a better idea of who may be affected.

If you get infected with SARS-CoV-2, you will have a long-term condition called Long COVID for at least three months. The symptoms may get worse over time or come on and off in waves. Some people will get better after a while, but for others, whose symptoms started in the early days of the pandemic in 2020 and haven’t gone away yet, they are still sick.

A lot of work has been done by scientists to figure out what causes long-term COVID and to find treatments that might help, not just for these patients but also for people with other post-viral syndromes. There are still a lot of things we don’t know, though. One of the biggest questions is who may be most likely to get long-term COVID. Someone at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center may have led a new study that could help.

“Our study clearly establishes that COVID posed a substantial personal and societal burden,” said Professor Elizabeth C. Oelsner, who wrote the study and was the lead author. “By figuring out who was most likely to have had a long recovery, we have a better idea of who should be involved in ongoing research into how to lessen or stop the long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

The 4,700 people who took part in the study agreed to be a part of the Collaborative Cohort of Cohorts for COVID-19 Research, or C4R. C4R is made up of more than 50,000 people from all over the US who are doing long-term research to help us learn as much as we can about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The people who took part were asked to say how long it took them to get better after getting COVID. The average time to get better from an infection between 2020 and 2023 was 20 days, and more than one in five adults had symptoms for at least three months.

The biggest groups of those were found to be women and people who already had heart disease. American Indian and Alaska Native people who took part also had more severe first infections and took longer to recover.

Being vaccinated against the virus and having an infection with an omicron lineage variant, which is usually linked to milder disease, were both linked to a faster recovery. She said, “Our study shows how important it is that COVID vaccinations have been, not only in lowering the severity of an infection but also in lowering the risk of long-term COVID.”

Other health problems that are usually linked to worse outcomes from COVID, like diabetes and chronic lung disease, were linked to longer recovery times. However, this was no longer a statistically significant finding when sex, heart disease, vaccination status, and variant exposure were taken into account.

The study also found an interesting lack of a significant link with mental health disorders. Studies have shown that a lot of people with long COVID have problems with their mental health, but Oelsner said, “We did not find that depressive symptoms before SARS-CoV-2 infection were a major risk factor for long COVID.”

The main thing to remember is that getting vaccinated is still the best way to avoid getting COVID in the first place, so make sure you don’t have a worse experience with it. The current circulating variants are mostly offshoots of Omicron. This may also be a reason to be hopeful, since these variants were linked to shorter recovery times.

New vaccines are being made to match the newest strains, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts out detailed information on when people of different ages and risk levels should think about getting their next booster. Different countries have different vaccine availability, but the health authority in your area should be able to tell you if you can get a shot.

The study can be found in JAMA Network Open.

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