In recent years it has been observed that plastic materials have started to be a serious environmental problem. Today, these materials can be found almost everywhere in nature, especially in the form of small particles called microplastics. The oceans are currently under threat from this scourge, but they are not the only ones since these microplastics are also found in places that can be qualified as unusual. Recently, research has indeed shown the presence of microplastics in the placenta of several pregnant women.
The study was carried out by researchers specializing in pediatrics from the Fatebenefratelli Hospital in Rome and the University Politecnica delle Marche on women who live in Italy. The subjects had no complications during the delivery of their babies and the effect of the small particles is still unknown. However, experts believe that microplastics could allow certain harmful chemicals to damage the immune system of the developing fetus.
"With the presence of plastic in the body, the self-identifying immune system is disrupted, even though the cause is not organic," said the scientists behind the research.
A baby "cyborg"?
Scientists explained that with this discovery, it can be said that the babies of the women studied are also composed of inorganic entities. They compared them to "baby cyborgs" because they were no longer made up of human cells alone.
Of the six placentas donated by women after giving birth, four contained microplastics. In all, the researchers found 12 fragments of microplastics in samples taken from the four placentas. They believe, however, that the total number of microplastics contained in the placentas could be much higher given that only 3% of the tissue from each placenta was analyzed.
Among the plastic particles found, three are tinted polypropylenes. The other nine could not be determined with precision but their pigments indicated that they could come from artificial coatings, adhesives, plasters, paints, or even cosmetics.
The immune system's response to microplastics
According to the report published in the journal Environment International , inside the body, microplastics are considered foreign bodies. Thus, localized immune responses can be triggered.
On the other hand, these substances can also transport other harmful chemicals such as plastic additives or environmental pollutants.
The researchers said that the presence of exogenous and potentially harmful particles like microplastics in the placenta is of great concern. The placenta is indeed known for its essential role in the development of the fetus by acting as an interface between it and the external environment.
In general, these results show to what extent plastic materials represent a danger for humanity but also for the entire planet. Now is the time to take tough action on this problem before it is too late.