The Whole View with Stacy Toth, Season 3, Bonus: Plastic Nano & Micro Particles in Water w/ Healthline’s Dr. Jenny Yu

Plastic in our water?! Dr. Jenny Yu of Healthline joins Stacy on this bonus episode to breakdown the latest research that has come out about micro- and nano plastics found in our water and beyond. Dr. Yu explains what we do and don’t know, why this information matters, and what we can do to feel empowered in the decisions we make about our personal care.

 

Find Dr. Yu:

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Introductions

  • Jenny Yu, MD FACS is the Chief Health Officer for RVO Health, the parent company to Healthline, Healthgrades, and Optum Perks.
  • Furthermore, she leads the Medical Affairs team and supports the overall organization in strategy, growth, medical integrity, and external speaking opportunities.
  • Prior to joining Healthline in 2020, she was a practicing academic clinician with 15+ years experience in research and operation. She is also a co-founder of the non-profit, Project Theia, with focus on education, care, and innovation in facial reconstructive surgeries for global communities.

Plastic

  • Micro = about the size of a grain of rice
  • Nano = not visible through the naked eye, microns, smaller than a single strand of hair
  • Ways plastic can get into human bodies is through ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact
  • These small plastics can integrate into cells. Some long-term effects known are increase in inflammatory markers and disruptions of homeostasis.
  • When reading studies, note that not all studies done in lower-order animals (like mice) translate directly into how it affects humans
  • We need more studies to what the cumulative effects are micro- and nano plastics are

What were the findings or conclusions of the study?

  • Determined orders of magnitude two to three times more than the previously reported results merely focusing on large microplastics
  • Specifically in drinking water production, plastic contamination is confirmed in every step from the well to the bottle
  • Polymers – plastics – were found to be introduced both before and during packaging and transportation of bottled water
  • Seven plastic polymers known and evaluated can only account for roughly about 10% of the total particles/dots imaged under SRS microscopy, requiring further analysis to determine if the particle composition contains even more plastic than is known or what of those particles may be organic in nature
  • Widely used equipment in components of water treatment, including reverse osmosis the gold standard, use plastic membranes as well
  • In mass quantification, it’s easy to overlook nanoplastics because nanoparticles with smaller sizes contain cubic-less substances. However, they are capable of crossing the biological barrier, which  might play a predominant role in terms of toxicity evaluation.
  • toxicity induced by micro-nano particles is not only dose-dependent but also related to particle physicochemical characteristics and their effect on cellular interactions and uptake

Next Steps

 How can we minimize exposure:

  • Drink filtered tap water when possible, with a filter that has a pore size of 1 micron or less can help reduce microplastics
  • Avoid filters that are made of plastic, use carbon or ceramic filters certified by NSF or Water Quality Associated
  • Drink out of glass or stainless steel bottles, not plastic
  • If drinking out of a plastic bottle keep it away from sunlight and heat to maintain structural integrity of the plastic and keep it from degrading into your drinking water
  • So switch out as much plastic a you can for glass containers, compostable non-plastic food storage bags, reusable grocery bags, etc.

Overall, balance information you’re taking in and the changes you’re trying to make, and ask yourself is it making you more anxious or empowering you?

Studies, References & Products

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Note: Stacy and her guests are not medical professionals. This podcast is for general educational purposes only. It is NOT intended to diagnose, advise, or treat any physical or mental illness. We always recommend you consult a licensed service provider.

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