April 21, 2024


Microplastics were found in every human placenta tested in a study, leaving the researchers concerned about the potential health impacts on developing fetuses.

The scientists analyzed 62 placental tissue samples and found that the most common plastic detected was polyethylene, which is used to make plastic bags and bottles. A second study revealed microplastics in all 17 human arteries tested and suggested that the particles may be linked to clogging of the blood vessels.

Microplastics have also recently been discovered in human blood and Breast milk, indicating widespread contamination of people’s bodies. The impact on health is still unknown, but Microplastics have been shown to cause damage to human cells in the laboratory. The particles can get stuck in tissue and cause inflammation, like air pollution particles do, or chemicals in the plastic can cause damage.

Large amounts of plastic waste are dumped into the environment and microplastics have polluted the entire planet, from the summit of Mount Everest after the deepest oceans. Humans are known to ingest the small particles via food and water as well as breathe them inand they were found in the feces of infants and adults.

Prof Matthew Campen, at the University of New Mexico, USA, who led the research, said: “If we see effects on placentas, all mammalian life on this planet could be affected. It’s not good.”

He said the growing concentration of microplastics in human tissue could explain puzzling increases in some health problems, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), colon cancer in people under 50, and falling sperm counts. A 2021 study found that people with IBD had 50% more microplastics in their feces.

Campen said he is deeply concerned about the growing global production of plastic because it means the problem of microplastics in the environment is “only getting worse”.

The research, published in the Toxicological Sciences journal, found microplastics in all the placenta samples tested, with concentrations ranging from 6.5 to 790 micrograms per gram of tissue. PVC and nylon were the most common plastics detected, next to polyethylene.

The microplastics were analyzed by using chemicals and a centrifuge to separate them from the tissue, then heating them and analyzing the characteristic chemical signature of each plastic. The same technique was used by scientists at the Capital Medical University in Beijing, China to detect microplastics in human artery samples.

Microplastic was first detected in placentas in 2020, in samples from four healthy women who had normal pregnancies and births in Italy. The scientists said: “Microplastics carry substances that, acting as endocrine disruptors, can cause long-term effects on human health.”

The concentration of microplastics in placentas was of particular concern, Campen said. The tissue only grows for eight months, as it begins to form about a month into pregnancy. “Other organs of your body accumulate over much longer periods of time,” he added.



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