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Potentially toxic microplastics are found in 100 PERCENT of human placentas tested by scientists who say ‘all mammalian life on this planet could be impacted’


Potentially toxic microplastics found in 100 percent of human placenta tested in a new study have suggested that ‘all mammalian life on this planet could be impacted.’

A team at the University of New Mexico tested 62 women’s placentas, finding every one contained small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long.

The particles ranged in size from 6.5 to 790 micrograms, with an average concentration of 128.6 micrograms for every gram of donated placenta.

The most common plastics found in the samples were those used in plastic bags and bottles, making up 54 percent, while materials used in construction and nylon accounted for 10 percent – and the rest were nine other plastics.

Microplastics are linked to cancers, fertility problems, and dementia, with some researchers and public health experts fearing that they can lead to babies being born underweight.

These light microscope images show microplastics in samples from human placentas. The bottom row is illuminated with a UV light to show just how much plastic is left in the sample, even after the tissue has been processed

These light microscope images show microplastics in samples from human placentas. The bottom row is illuminated with a UV light to show just how much plastic is left in the sample, even after the tissue has been processed

Microplastics have been found almost everywhere on Earth, including beaches, mountains, and pristine wilderness

Microplastics have been found almost everywhere on Earth, including beaches, mountains, and pristine wilderness

‘If we’re seeing effects on placentas, then all mammalian life on this planet could be impacted. That’s not good,’ said senior study author Matthew Campen.

Plastics that end up in landfills release the tiny particles into ground water and sometimes as aerosolizes into the atmosphere, which find their way into our food, water and bodies.

‘This problem will get worse with time because all these plastics in our environment are degrading and they become microplastics, and the concentrations are going to increase,’ Campen told DailyMail.com.

While many may think the placenta is a barrier to the outside world, it seems they are not safe from microplastics. 

Campen and his team devised a new method that allowed them to extract the tiny particles from tissues taken from each placenta.

The method, called pyrolysis-gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS), involves heating samples until they combust.

The fetus has a direct line to the mother, but microplastics highjack this line by hitching a ride with fats

The fetus has a direct line to the mother, but microplastics highjack this line by hitching a ride with fats

Different materials and chemicals ignite at different temperatures, and as they do, they give off a chemical fingerprint that was captured by Campen’s team and their equipment.

‘We’re able to get a complete picture in a single number of all the different sizes and shapes of all the different particles of plastic that are in tissue,’ he said. 

In the study, researchers examined placentas, but Py-GC-MS was able to test ‘any tissue sample you can get your hands on, basically,’ said Campen, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of New Mexico. 

Almost the only thing it can’t be used on is a living human.

Most of the research done up until now, Campen said, has been limited by the ability of microscopes to see the very smallest fragments of microplastics.

One micrometer, he said, is about the smallest sized fragment of microplastic that a conventional light microscope can show.

But with the Py-GC-MS method, Campen and his team were able to see all of the pieces down in the nanometer range.

This is an important development for scientists in this area, as all the microplastics out in the environment are just going to keep breaking down and getting even smaller, he said. 

In fact, it is likely that they impact all mammalian life. 

The study was published in the journal Toxicological Sciences

Campen and his team are currently using Py-GC-MS to analyze autopsy samples, and the work is still in progress, but their early results fit with that this study found, he said.

But based on this latest study, it’s too early to panic about your exposure to microplastics during pregnancy, said Campen. 

Additionally, trying to change your diet while pregnant in an effort to avoid microplastics could lead to worse health problems for the developing fetus, he said. 

That being said, it’s ‘pretty likely’ that the presence of microplastics in the placenta means they made their way to the developing fetus.

‘We absolutely think there’s some transport process,’ said Campen. 

Plastic has a high affinity for fats, as anyone who has ever tried to wash grease off of a plastic food storage container has learned.

So fat in your diet, which gets passed through the umbilical cord to the developing fetus, creates a sort of ‘avenue’ for all the microplastics a mother inadvertently consumes. 

Microplastics are seemingly everywhere. But where do they come from? This graphic shows some of their many sources: industrial pollution, agricultural runoff, clothing, single-use plastics, and more

Microplastics are seemingly everywhere. But where do they come from? This graphic shows some of their many sources: industrial pollution, agricultural runoff, clothing, single-use plastics, and more

‘Your body needs that, and the growing fetus needs that too. We’re thinking the nanoplastics are hijacking that system,’ Campen said.

‘They slip through because they look like other things that the fetus needs,’ he added. 

He noted that it’s too early to know exactly what the long-term consequences of microplastic exposure are for mother and child.

So trying to avoid microplastics by avoiding fat during pregnancy could have worse consequences, as fat is a vital source of nutrition and energy for the developing brain.



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