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Plastic in placentas, a risk for fetuses

They indicate that the one with the greatest incidence is the plastic with which bags and bottles are manufactured.

Not only in the most emblematic sites on Earth such as Mount Everest or in the stomachs of penguins, they have now found microplastics in human placentas, potentially toxic to the health, development of fetuses and mammals.

This is the result of the study “quantification and identification of the accumulation of microplastics in human placenta samples using gas chromatography by pyrolysis mass spectrometry,” according to an article published in recent days by the journal Toxicological Sciences.

In this work, 62 placenta samples were analyzed and in all of them there were microplastics with concentrations between 6,5 and 685 micrograms per gram of placental tissue.

In the samples they determined the presence of polyethylene as the most prevalent plastic with 54% of the total and which is usually the material with which bags and bottles are manufactured. Next with 10% each were polyvinyl chloride and nylon, while the remainder was a mixture of nine other types of polymers.

This study was carried out by researchers from the University of New Mexico, in the United States, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine, as well as Oklahoma State University. They used the tissue separation technique with chemicals and a centrifuge to then heat and analyze the characteristic chemical signature of each plastic.

In this regard, experts point out that this is worrying, since the concentration of microplastics can impact the neurological development of unborn babies, with the placenta being the vehicle that transports nutrients to the fetus.

"The dose makes the poison. If the doses continue to increase, we start to worry. If we see effects in placentas, then all mammals could be affected. That's not good,” said Matthew Campen, biologist and lead author of the research, international agencies reported.

These microplastics smaller than five millimeters can be ingested through food, liquids and the respiratory tract. Their degradation is due to plastic waste that is dumped into the environment and has also been detected in the depositions of both children and adults.

Campen has linked this problem to pathologies such as colon cancer in people under 50 years of age, inflammatory bowel disease and decreased sperm count.

Likewise, there was a second study that detected the presence of microplastics in 17 human arteries analyzed, which could be associated with the obstruction of blood vessels.


In recent years, the scientific community had already expressed concern about the presence of plastic particles in pregnant women.

The alarming thing about this new research is that it is broader, so the potential harmful effects on human health return to the debate.

In 2020, news broke about a study at the Fatebenefratelli hospital in Italy, after microplastics were identified in the analysis of placentas from six women.

In this investigation, 12 fragments of inorganic material between five and 10 microns were identified, about the size of a red blood cell.

There are other scientific contributions in this sense and they account for the presence of microplastics in the blood, breast milk, and in laboratory tests it has been demonstrated that they cause damage to human cells because they have the ability to lodge in tissues and cause inflammation.

There is another interesting fact that the scientific journal Environment International released in 2022 about an analysis of small plastics found in the bloodstream of a group of 22 donors.

Researchers from the Free University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands did so and concluded that the tiny polymers came from the living environment. The average was 16 micrograms per milliliter, which is equal to one teaspoon of plastic in a thousand liters of water.

What is most worrying about the microplastics found in placentas is that they could not only interfere with the functions, affect the growth and development of the baby, but in the long term they would represent a risk to their health.

Placenta and contamination

Reducing the use of plastics and improving waste management actions is one of the most urgent challenges for humanity, since it prevents further environmental pollution, but also of the human body and other species.

In this study, its authors invited more research to be carried out to know with greater certainty the effects that microplastics have on human and animal health, especially because microplastics contain substances that act as endocrine disruptors and this can cause effects with the time, some European media reported in recent days.

The placenta is an organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy and is responsible for supplying both oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby.

In addition, its importance lies in the elimination of waste from the baby's blood.

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