Microplastics Found In Placentas Of Pregnant Women For First Time
Researchers in Italy have discovered microplastics in the placentas of new mothers.
The women studied had no complications with the birth of their children and the long-term effects of the microplastic is unknown.
However, the researchers said the presence of plastic in the body is disturbing.
‘It’s like having a cyborg baby: no longer composed only of human cells, but a mixture of a biological entity and inorganic entities. The mothers were shocked,’ Antonio Ragusa, the lead author of the study said.
The study, carried out by teams at Rome’s Fatebenefratelli Hospital and the Politecnica delle Marche University, was published in the Environment International journal, as first reported by ANSA.
In total, researchers found 12 fragments of microplastic in four placentas out of the six donated by women after childbirth, all of which were pigmented.
‘When I saw for the first time microplastics in the placenta, I was astonished,’ Ragusa said.
Only 3% of the placenta tissue was analysed, meaning that the total number of fragments could be much higher.
‘Three were identified as stained polypropylene a thermoplastic polymer, while for the other nine it was possible to identify only the pigments, which were all used for man-made coatings, paints, adhesives, plasters, finger paints, polymers and cosmetics and personal care products,’ the research reads.
When microplastics are identified by human cells, they are treated as foreign bodies and can trigger an immune response.
‘With the presence of plastic in the body, the immune system that self-recognises is disturbed, even what is not organic,’ the research said.
‘Due to the crucial role of placenta in supporting the foetus development and in acting as an interface between the latter and the external environment, the presence of exogenous and potentially harmful (plastic) particles is a matter of great concern,’ it added.
To ensure that the women’s placentas were not contaminated with plastic after they left the body, doctors maintained a plastic-free environment during labour.
Midwives used cotton gloves and cotton towels were used to cover the women’s beds. Pathologists also wore cotton gloves and used metal scalpels.
According to the study, in the last 100 years, global production of plastics has reached 320 million tons a year. More than 40% of this is for single-use packaging, leading to huge levels of plastic waste.
Microplastics, such as the fragments of which were found in the placentas, also act as carriers for other chemicals. These include environmental pollutants and plastic additives, which are known to have harmful effects.
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