Scientists Detect Microplastics in Placentas of Live Pregnancies for the First Time
Microplastics have been detected in the placenta of life pregnancies for the first time ever. Scientists have flagged their finding as a “matter of great concern,” despite the health effects of microplastics being largely unknown.
The study involved the collection of six human placentas from consenting women with healthy, conventional pregnancies. Only 3 to 4% of each placenta was analyzed, which yielded a total of 12 microplastic particles from four of the placentas. Scientists say this suggests the total number of microplastics could be much higher.
Researchers are unsure how the microplastics made their way into the placentas. And with the health effects of microplastics generally unknown, researchers aren’t entirely sure what ramifications their findings could have. In the four cases studied, the babies were born healthy.
“[But] it is obviously preferable not to have foreign bodies while the baby is developing,” Dr. Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at King’s College London, who wasn’t involved in the study, told the Daily Mail.
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The researchers conclude “due to the crucial role of placenta in supporting the fetus’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.” They also recommend further studies to “assess if the presence of microplastics may trigger immune responses or may lead to the release of toxic contaminants, resulting in harm.”
Published in Environment International, the finding is not entirely unexpected, given the sheer amount of microplastics we are surrounded by. We already know they’re present in the oceans and in the soil. Earlier this year, scientists discovered microplastics in sea breeze for the first time; last year, microplastics were found in rain and snow, and more alarmingly, in our food as well — so much that we could be eating one credit card worth of plastic each week.