- Microplastics are plastics less than 5mm in size and are often a result of plastic degradation
- Researchers in Italy analyzed six human placentas using Raman Microspectroscopy.
- Researchers found a total of 12 microplastic particles in 4 placentas.
It seems there’s no escaping plastics. Oceans, Land, Humans, and now even Placentas seem to contain the pollutant. Although previous researchers have detected microplastics in human tissues and organs, this is the first-ever discovery within human placentas.
Over the past few decades, plastics have become a major environmental hazard. Likely due to their non-biodegradable nature and rising population in the world’s oceans. Millions of marine animals die every year as a result of plastics accumulating in the ocean. Moreover, these plastics often break down into pieces smaller than 5mm called microplastics. This adds further to the environmental damage as these small fragments lead to greater accumulation.
Microplastics Found Inside 4 Human Placentas
Microplastics are not only formed from plastic degradation but also manufactured for commercial use such as in cosmetics. Just like all other plastics, microplastics can also take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose down to harmless molecules. However, during that passage of time, these tiny pollutants cause considerable damage to not just animals but also humans.
Researchers in Italy examined six human placentas obtained from women with normal vaginal delivery at term. To prevent any plastic contamination, they adopted a plastic-free environment during each delivery. Obstetricians, midwives, and pathologists all wore cotton gloves. Furthermore, placentas were placed in a metal container after birth and divided into sections. Next, they analyzed the samples using Raman Microspectroscopy. Scientists widely use this method to detect microplastics and microparticles in biological samples.
The results showed the presence of a total of 12 microplastic particles in four of the placentas. Although 12 microplastics is a small number, it is important to note that the researchers only examined a small portion of each placenta. A full assessment would have likely resulted in a greater amount.
Where Did it Come From?
This is the first study to provide evidence of the transfer of microplastics from mother to fetus. However, it is not clear how the pollutants reach the mother’s bloodstream in the first place. Researchers found the particles in the fetal side and maternal side of the placenta, and the chorioamniotic membranes. Thus, indicating that microplastics can affect all levels of the placental tissues once inside the human body.
Further research will help assess the effects of these pollutants on the developing fetus and the pregnancy.
Ragusa, Antonio, et al. “Plasticenta: First Evidence of Microplastics in Human Placenta.” Environment International, vol. 146, 2021, p. 106274., doi:10.1016/j.envint.2020.106274.