This is incredibly disturbing and should come with a trigger warning.
Plasticenta, as the study called it, is the first evidence of microplastics in the human placenta. In a new study, Raman microspectroscopy detected microplastics in human placentas — they were found in all placental portions, such as the maternal, fetal, and amniochorical membranes. Microplastics also have a type of substance that acts as endocrine disruptors and could cause long-term effects on human health.
The researchers analyzed six human placentas from healthy pregnant women in Italy and found 12 microplastic fragments ranging from 5–10 micrometers in size in four of the placentas collected after the women gave birth. Five microplastics were found in the fetal side portions of the placentas, four in the maternal side portions, and 3 in the chorioamniotic membranes. Six of the microplastics found were between 5 and 10 micrometers in size while only two were less than 5 micrometers in size.
The researchers pointed out that the pigment, iron hydroxide yellow, which was found in the first particle, is used for coloration of polymers (plastic and rubber), which are found in a wide variety of cosmetics such as blemish balm (BB) creams and foundations. The other particles that were found are dyed with colors used for staining of plastic materials, colors used in fingerpaints, textile dyeing, coating products, adhesives, fragrances, air fresheners, soap, lipstick, mascara, eyeshadow, and other makeup products.
Researchers pointed out that these microplastics had a bit of color to them and quite possibly could have come from packaging. The study also provides details of each microparticle found. The first one, which was around 10 micrometers, had pigment made up of iron hydroxide oxide yellow which is pigment Yellow 43. Microparticle number 11 had a polymer matrix of polypropylene, and its pigment mix was Hostopen violet, which is pigment Violet 23. Its molecular structure was probably larger than the size of the particle — C34H22Cl2N4O2 8,18-Dichloro-5,15-diethyl-5,15-dihydrodiindolo(3,2-b:3′,2′-m)tri- phenodioxazine.
“Three were identified as stained polypropylene, a thermoplastic polymer, while for the other nine it was possible to identify only the pigments, which were all used for man-made coatings, paints, adhesives, plasters, finger paints, polymers and cosmetics, and personal care products,” the researchers wrote in the study.
They also pointed out that this is potentially harmful and is a cause of great concern. “Due to the crucial role of placenta in supporting the fetus development and in acting as an interface between the latter and the external environment, the presence of exogenous and potentially harmful (plastic) particles is a matter of great concern.”
Some Disturbing Things To Consider
The researchers shared just how these microplastics got in the women’s placentas and other pieces of information that are disturbing (to me, at least). It should make us all realize that we need to be mindful of things we put in and on our bodies. Many often forget that our largest organ is our skin and it does “eat” lotions, creams, and things we place on it.
Microplastics may enter the bloodstream and reach the placenta from the maternal respiratory system and the gastrointestinal tract. It can do this by paracellular transport.
It is reported that, once present in the human body, MPs may accumulate and exert localized toxicity.
It’s possible for microplastic and other microparticles to alter several cellular regulating pathways in the placenta. This means that it would affect the growth factor signaling during and after implantation and even lead up to adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction.
Take A Look Around
What do you see when you go into your kitchen, your closet, or your bathroom. You may pump soap from the dispenser or wear a cute shirt you bought off the bargain rack, or from a store that sells low-cost clothing. We never fully know what our clothing is made from.
Every day, we wear clothes — they rub up against our skin. Did you know that microplastics from textiles (aka fabrics that compose your clothing) were found in the Mississippi River, which is my local water source? It’s quite possible that many have these tiny little plastic particles that we can not see with our naked eyes in our systems.
To solve this, we need to buy better quality items. Sometimes — especially for many — this is simply impossible. The idea that babies can be born with manmade microplastics is alarming, and it makes me wonder how this could damage the health of our future generations.