Scientists urge pregnant women not to use plastic bottles after study shows microplastics can enter fetal organs
- Previous studies have shown that plastic particles can pass into the placenta
- A new study in rats shows that plastic can also get into the organs of the fetus
- Experts recommend drinking from glass or metal bottles
Experts recommend drinking from glass or metal bottles due to growing fears that small plastic particles can harm our health.
Dr. Luisa Campagnolo, an expert in histology and embryology at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, warned that there is growing evidence of micro- and nanoplastics getting into human tissue.
Previous studies have shown that microscopic particles – a by-product of the breakdown of plastic – can enter the human bloodstream and even the placenta.
But a new study in rats presented at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science shows that ingested plastics can pass into the organs of the fetus itself.
“There is some evidence that the fetus is most likely a target for plastic particles because the placenta is,” said Dr Campagnolo, who was not involved in the study.
Experts recommend drinking from glass or metal bottles due to growing fears that tiny plastic particles can wreak havoc on our health (stock image)
“I wouldn’t stuff the placenta with plastic particles, so as not to damage the fetus.”
Previous research has suggested that plastic particles entering human tissues can affect the production of certain hormones and thereby impair biological processes.
And while research into the effect of plastic particles on human health is still in its infancy and it’s important not to jump to conclusions about the potential dangers, there are simple steps we can all take to protect our health, said Dr. Campagnolo.
Disposable plastic bottles can give off dirt, especially when exposed to sunlight, which we then drink.
Dr. Campagnolo said: ‘It’s probably less convenient, but we shouldn’t be drinking bottled water in plastic bottles.
“We shouldn’t panic if we sit on a plastic chair, but I think we should avoid anything disposable, anything that comes in contact with food, like using plastic containers in the microwave. We have to go back to glass.
“Disposable plastic probably took over 30 to 40 years ago, but we can rethink this approach.”
Dr. Philip Demokritou, an expert in nanoscience and environmental bioengineering at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said recent findings from animal studies were “deeply alarming.”
His study in rodents, published last month in the journal Nanomaterials, would be the first evidence that ingested plastics can be passed on to a fetus.
Previous research has suggested that plastic particles entering human tissues can affect the production of certain hormones and thereby impair biological processes (stock image)
He said: ‘From the stomach of the pregnant animal, 24 hours later, we found these micro- and nanoplastics in the placenta.
“More importantly, we found them in every organ of the fetus, indicating potential developmental effects.”
Dr. Demokritou called for more investment in research to understand the implant of plastic particles on human health, and renewed efforts to recycle materials or switch to more biodegradable alternatives.
He said: ‘I don’t want to scare people, but this is an emerging contaminant and we have a lot of unknowns in terms of the risks.
‘Everyone consumes about 5 grams of micro- and nanoplastics per week. That’s the equivalent of a credit card going in your stomach every week.
‘We can’t go back to the Stone Age, but as a society we have to become smarter, embrace sustainable concepts to prevent this kind of crisis.
“All of us, scientists, the public, society as a whole, regulators, we need to rethink how we produce and use materials and chemicals in general.”
URBAN FLOODS FLASH MICROPLASTICS INTO THE OCEANS FASTER THAN THOUGHT
Urban flooding is causing microplastics to be washed into our oceans even faster than previously thought, according to scientists who look at pollution in rivers.
Waterways in Greater Manchester are now so heavily polluted by microplastics that particles are found in every sample – even the tiniest of streams.
This pollution is a major contributor to ocean pollution, researchers found as part of the first detailed river basin-wide study anywhere in the world.
This debris – including microbeads and microfibers – is toxic to ecosystems.
Scientists tested 40 sites around Manchester and found that every waterway contained these tiny toxic particles.
Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic waste, including microbeads, microfibers and plastic fragments.
They have long been known to enter river systems from multiple sources, including industrial effluents, storm drains, and domestic sewage.
While about 90 percent of microplastic pollution in the oceans is believed to come from land, not much is known about their movements.
Most of the rivers studied contain about 517,000 plastic particles per square meter, according to researchers from the University of Manchester who conducted the detailed study.
After a period of major flooding, the researchers took new samples at all locations.
They found that pollution levels had dropped in most of them and that the flood had removed about 70 percent of the microplastics stored in the riverbeds.
This shows that flooding can carry large amounts of microplastics from urban rivers to the oceans.