“It is like having a cyborg baby: no longer composed only of human cells, but a mixture of biological and inorganic entities.”
For the first time, researchers have found microplastic particles in the placentas of unborn babies, a discovery that has been described as “a matter of great concern”.
The “Plasticenta” study, which has been published in the journal Environment International, found microplastics throughout the placenta of four healthy, pregnant women.
The tests that analyzed just 4% of each individual’s placenta, found at least a dozen plastic particles that had been dyed blue, red, orange or pink and may have originally come from packaging, paints or cosmetics and personal care products.
According to the team, the particles are likely to have been consumed or breathed in by the mothers.
The identified microplastics were around 10 microns in size (0.01mm). This means the particles were small enough to be carried in the bloodstream and may have entered the babies’ bodies although the researchers were unable to assess this.
While the health impact of microplastics in the body is not yet known, scientists fear the chemicals present in the microplastics could potentially cause long-term damage or upset the foetus’s developing immune system.
The research team said: “Due to the crucial role of placenta in supporting the foetus’s development and in acting as an interface with the external environment, the presence of potentially harmful plastic particles is a matter of great concern.”
Lead author Antonio Ragusa, director of obstetrics and gynaecology at the San Giovanni Calibita Fatebenefratelli hospital in Rome said: “It is like having a cyborg baby: no longer composed only of human cells, but a mixture of biological and inorganic entities.”
According to the team, further studies are necessary to assess whether microplastics “trigger immune responses or lead to the release of toxic contaminants, resulting in harm.”
‘Study flags a very worrying concern’
Commenting on the study results, Elizabeth Salter Green, director of the chemicals charity CHEM Trust, said: ‘Babies are being born pre-polluted. The study was very small but nevertheless flags a very worrying concern.’
Microplastic deposition in human organs
Microplastic pollution has dramatically increased in the last 50 years with the widespread use of inexpensive disposable products. This plastic is not biodegradable and only breaks down into smaller pieces, which ultimately pollutes the air, water and soil.
Previous research has shown that people eat and breathe in at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and these microscopic pieces have also been found deposited in human tissue samples taken from the lungs, liver, spleen and kidneys.
In a separate report published in the Environmental Journal, hormone specialist Dr Ivone Mirpuri highlighted that chemicals used to make plastic could be the underlying cause of a rising number of health disorders in people including reduced fertility to obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and neurological complications.
Share this story to let others know about the hazardous effects of microplastic pollution.
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