It's 2020 and we can all agree - plastic pollution is worse now than it's ever been.
In new research which is considered great cause for concern, microplastic particles have been revealed in the placentas of unborn babies for the first time.
The microplastic particles were found in the placentas from four healthy women who had normal pregnancies and births. Microplastics were detected on both the foetal and maternal sides of the placenta and in the membrane within which the foetus develops.
Only about 4% of each placenta was analysed, which leads the possibility of the total number of microplastics concentrating being much higher. All the particles analysed were plastics that had traces of pigement: They were dyed blue, red, orange or pink and may have originally come from packaging, paints or cosmetics and personal care products.
The research, called 'Plasticenta: First evidence of microplastics in human placenta' was published in the journal Environment International. The researchers concluded that “Due to the crucial role of placenta in supporting the foetus’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. Further studies need to be performed to assess if the presence of microplastics may trigger immune responses or may lead to the release of toxic contaminants, resulting in harm.”
They also added that "Microparticles may alter several cellular regulating pathways in placenta, such as immunity mechanisms during pregnancy, growth-factor signalling during and after implantation, functions of atypical chemokine receptors governing maternal-foetal communication, signalling between the embryo and the uterus, and trafficking of uterine dendritic cells, natural killer cells, T cells and macrophages during normal pregnancy. All these effects may lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes including preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction."
It added that further studies need to be performed to assess if the presence of microplastics in human placenta may trigger immune responses or may lead to the release of toxic contaminants, resulting harmful for pregnancy.
“It is like having a cyborg baby: no longer composed only of human cells, but a mixture of biological and inorganic entities,” said Antonio Ragusa, director of obstetrics and gynaecology at the San Giovanni Calibita Fatebenefratelli hospital in Rome, and who led the study, reports The Guardian.
An earlier study in October had found that bottle-fed babies may ingest more than a million pieces of microplastics each day, new research showed Monday highlighting the abundance of plastics in our food products.
A 2019 study also found that on an average, humans on an average could be ingesting the equivalent of a credit card of plastic a week.
As plastic is not biodegradable, but only breaks down into smaller pieces, it ultimately ends up everywhere, cluttering beaches and choking marine wildlife, as well as in the food chain.