Researchers find microplastic particles in human placenta

February 26, 2024  08:30

Microscopic pieces of plastic have been found in most tissues of the human body, and a new study suggests they're also seeping into the placenta.

The results of this research were published in the journal Toxicological Sciences.

It was found that all samples of placenta taken from 62 women contained microplastics, according to a group of researchers from the University of New Mexico (UNM).

Microplastic concentrations varied widely, from 6.5 to 790 micrograms per gram of tissue.

The researchers emphasized that these amounts are still very small. A microgram is one-millionth of a gram, and the health effects of the placenta remain unknown. However, the obtained results are cause for concern.

For toxicologists, “dose makes the poison,” said the head of this research team, Matthew Campen, PhD, Regents’ Professor in the UNM Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. “If the dose keeps going up, we start to worry. If we’re seeing effects on placentas, then all mammalian life on this planet could be impacted. That’s not good.”

Using sophisticated laboratory techniques, the researchers analyzed, with the help of gas production, function the relative concentrations of microplastics in tissues.

When their results were sorted by plastic found, polyethylene in plastic bottles and bags came out on top, making up about 54% of the samples found in the placenta's tissue.

Polyvinyl chloride—better known as PVC—made up about 10% of the samples, the researchers noted.

At the same time, however, they emphasized that the effect of microplastics on the human body has not yet been determined.

Researchers have long considered them to be inert substances, but Campen's team noted that some plastic "nanoparticles" are so small that they can penetrate individual cells, and their detection in the tissue of a placenta is puzzling.

The presence of microplastics in other tissues of the body could be expected because the particles accumulate over a long period of time, but the placenta has only been growing for eight months, Campen noted.

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