The discovery of microplastics in the penis raises questions about erectile dysfunction | Plastic

Microplastics have been discovered in penises for the first time, raising questions about their possible role in erectile dysfunction.

The revelation comes after contaminants were recently detected in testicles and semen. Male fertility has declined in recent decades and more research into the possible harm of microplastics to reproduction is imperative, experts say.

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

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

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

The particles can cause inflammation in tissues, as do air polluting particles, and the chemicals in plastics could also cause damage. Doctors found a substantially increased risk of death from stroke and heart attack in people whose arteries were contaminated with microplastics.

Every year millions of tons of plastic waste are dumped into the environment and many of them decompose into microplastics. These have contaminated the entire planet, from the top 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 it is definitely vulnerable. During an erection, one-fifth of the entire body’s blood volume is pumped to the penis.”

He added: “We know that erectile dysfunction is multifactorial. You need good hormones, nerves, blood supply and good smooth muscle tissue for an erection to occur.

“We discovered that there were microplastics in the smooth muscle of the penis. “All we know is that they are not supposed to be there and we suspect that they could cause smooth muscle dysfunction.”

Ramasamy said more research is urgently needed to determine the potential role of microplastics in erectile dysfunction and male infertility. Sperm counts in men have been declining for decades and 40% of low counts remain unexplained, although many studies have implicated chemical contamination. Recent studies in mice have reported that microplastics reduced sperm count and caused hormonal abnormalities and disruptions.

Ramasamy said: “We have moved from whether we have microplastics in us to whether there is a level of microplastics beyond which things become pathological.”

The new research, published in IJIR: Your Sexual Medicine Journal, analyzed tissue samples taken from five men who were undergoing surgery for an inflatable penile prosthesis, which is a treatment option for men with severe erectile dysfunction. The microplastics detected ranged in size from 0.5 mm to 0.002 mm.

The researchers said the widespread proliferation of microplastics was alarming and it was imperative to understand the potential implications for human health.

Ramasamy said: “As a society, we must be aware that drinking water from plastic bottles, receiving takeaway food in plastic containers and, worse still, microwaving food in plastic containers, are contributing to having things in our bodies. that they shouldn’t be there. And the penis is the only organ that everyone will pay attention to.”

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