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Plastics have long been recognized for their detrimental impact on the environment, but a groundbreaking study published in the New England Journal of Medicine sheds light on their potential harm to human health. The study, titled “Microplastics and Nanoplastics (MNP) in Atheromas and Cardiovascular Events,” delves into the association between microplastics (MNPs) and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.

Led by Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at University Hospitals and Herman Hellerstein Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, U.S., the study examined over 200 individuals undergoing carotid endarterectomy, a surgical procedure to remove blockages in the carotid artery. The findings revealed that 58% of patients had detectable amounts of polyethylene, commonly found in food containers and wrappers, in their excised carotid plaque. Additionally, 12% of patients exhibited measurable amounts of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), commonly used in pipes and structural materials.

Over a follow-up period of nearly three years, individuals with evidence of plastics in their arteries were found to be 4.5 times more likely to experience a heart attack, stroke, or death compared to those without plastic residues in their arteries. This correlation underscores the potential health risks posed by microplastics and their impact on cardiovascular health.

While the study does not establish causality, it raises significant concerns about the presence of plastics in human tissues and their association with adverse health outcomes. Dr. Rajagopalan emphasized the importance of exercising caution in the use of plastics, particularly in food storage and preparation. He recommended opting for alternative containers such as glass or steel and avoiding the purchase of plastic water bottles in favor of reusable stainless steel containers.

Furthermore, Dr. Rajagopalan stressed the importance of responsible plastic disposal to mitigate the widespread contamination of the environment with plastics. As the detrimental effects of microplastics on human health continue to emerge, the study underscores the need for greater awareness and regulation to safeguard public health against plastic pollution.

The findings of this study serve as a wake-up call regarding the potential health risks associated with plastic exposure, urging individuals and policymakers alike to take proactive measures to address this pressing issue.

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