Recent research has revealed alarming findings regarding the absorption of cancer-causing flame retardants through the skin. Scientists from Brunel University London and the University of Birmingham conducted a study using a state-of-the-art 3D-printed skin model, shedding new light on the potential risks associated with these pervasive pollutants. The study, published in the journal Environment International, demonstrated that chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) can be absorbed into the bloodstream within 24 hours when exposed to the skin.

Microplastics, which are tiny plastic particles measuring less than five millimeters, have been found in various human body parts, leading to concerns about their potential health risks. While the toxicity of microplastics to humans remains uncertain, studies on oysters, fish, mice, and fleas have shown that these particles can disrupt hormones, scramble reproductive hormones, alter feeding patterns, and cause liver damage. Flame retardants like PBDEs are particularly worrisome as they have been linked to cancer and hormone disruption in humans. Despite bans on certain PBDE mixes, they continue to pose an environmental risk due to their regular addition to plastics.

One concerning aspect revealed by the study is the ability of chemicals added to microplastics, including PBDEs, to leach out into human sweat. The research demonstrated that up to 8% of these chemicals could enter the skin, with 0.1% of that amount migrating to the bloodstream within just 24 hours. The 3D-printed skin models used in the study accurately mimicked human skin behavior, providing valuable insights into the absorption process. This groundbreaking evidence highlights the importance of examining how individuals absorb various chemical additives present in microplastics and the need for reevaluating existing legislation.

Dr. Ovokeroye Abafe, the lead scientist behind the research, emphasized the significance of these findings in shaping public health policies and regulations. The study’s results underscore the potential risks associated with the exposure to toxic additive chemicals present in microplastics, urging regulators and policymakers to take action to safeguard public health. Given the multitude of unregulated toxic additives in microplastics, ranging from plasticizers to stabilizers, there is a critical need for stricter oversight and legislation to prevent these chemicals from entering the human system.

The revelation that cancer-causing flame retardants can enter the bloodstream through skin absorption emphasizes the urgency of addressing the risks posed by microplastics. By leveraging advanced scientific techniques and innovative research methods, we can better understand the consequences of human exposure to these pervasive pollutants and work towards mitigating their detrimental effects on health and the environment. As we strive to protect public health and well-being, it is imperative that policymakers, scientists, and industries collaborate to develop robust regulations and practices that safeguard individuals from the harmful impacts of toxic chemicals present in everyday items.


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