Microplastic discovery in penises raises erectile dysfunction questions

The contaminants have also recently been found in testes and semen amid concerns about falling male fertility

THE GUARDIAN – Microplastics have been discovered in penises for the first time, raising questions about a potential role in erectile dysfunction.

The revelation comes after the pollutants were recently detected in testes and semen. Male fertility has fallen in recent decades and more research on potential harm of microplastics to reproduction is imperative, say experts.

The researchers said the penis could be particularly vulnerable to contamination with microplastics due to high blood flow during erections. People ingest microplastics through eating, drinking and breathing and the tiny particles have been detected in blood.

The study assessed tissue taken from five men who were undergoing surgery related to erectile dysfunction. Microplastics were found in four cases, with PET and polypropylene being the most prevalent. Both are used in food and drink packaging and other everyday items.

There appears to be widespread contamination of people’s bodies with microplastics, with scientists finding them wherever they look. The impact on health is as yet unknown but microplastics have been shown to cause damage to human cells in the laboratory.

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The particles can cause inflammation in tissue, as air pollution particles do, and chemicals in the plastics could also cause harm. Doctors found a substantially raised risk of stroke and heart attack death in people whose arteries were contaminated with microplastics.

Millions of tonnes of plastic waste are dumped in the environment every year and much is broken down into microplastics. These have polluted the entire planet, from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans.

Dr Ranjith Ramasamy, who led the new research while at the University of Miami in the US, said: “The penis is a vascular, spongy organ so is definitely vulnerable. During an erection, a fifth of the blood volume in the whole body gets pumped to the penis … ”



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