By Xantha Leatham Deputy Science Editor of the Daily Mail
19:00 03 Mar 2023, update 19:00 03 Mar 2023
- Previous studies have shown that plastic particles can end up in the placenta
- New rat study shows plastics can also end up in fetal organs
- Experts recommended drinking from glass or metal bottles
Experts have recommended drinking from glass or metal bottles due to growing fears that tiny plastic particles could wreak havoc on our health.
Dr Luisa Campagnolo, an expert in histology and embryology at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, warned that there is growing evidence that micro and nano-plastics are found in human tissue.
Previous studies have shown that microscopic particles – a byproduct of plastic breakdown – can end up in the human bloodstream and even in 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 end up in the organs of the fetus itself.
“There are indications that the fetus is very likely a target for plastic particles, because the placenta is,” said Dr. Campagnolo, who was not involved in the study.
Microplastics used in food packaging and paint are found in living human VEINS for the first time – LEARN MORE
“I would avoid stuffing the placenta with plastic particles, so as not to affect the fetus.”
Previous research has suggested that plastic particles that enter human tissue can impact the production of certain hormones and can therefore alter biological processes.
And while research into the effects of plastic particles on human health is in its infancy and it’s important not to jump to conclusions about potential dangers, there are simple steps we can all take to protect our health, said Dr. Campagnolo.
Disposable plastic bottles can release debris, 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 from plastic bottles.
“We don’t have to panic if we sit on a plastic chair, but I think we should avoid anything disposable, anything that comes into contact with food, like using plastic containers in the microwave oven. We should go back to glass.
“Disposable plastic took over probably 30-40 years ago, but we can rethink that approach.”
Dr Philip Demokritou, an expert in nanoscience and environmental bioengineering at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said recent findings from animal studies were “very alarming”.
His rodent study, published last month in the journal Nanomaterials, is believed to show the first evidence that ingested plastics can be transmitted to the fetus.
He said: ‘From the stomach of the pregnant animal, 24 hours later we found these micro- and nano-plastics 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 implantation 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 off, but this is an emerging contaminant and we have a lot of unknowns in terms of the risks.”
“Each person consumes around 5 g of micro- and nano-plastics per week. That’s the equivalent of a credit card going into your stomach every week.
“We can’t go back to the stone age, but as a society we have to get smarter, adopt sustainable concepts, to avoid crises like this.
“All of us, scientists, the public, society as a whole, regulators, need to rethink the way we produce and use materials and chemicals in general.”
URBAN FLOODS ARE FLUSHING MICROPLASTICS INTO THE OCEANS FASTER THAN THOUGHTED
Urban flooding is pushing microplastics into our oceans even faster than expected, according to scientists who study river pollution.
Greater Manchester’s waterways are now so heavily contaminated with microplastics that particles are found in every sample, including even the smallest streams.
This pollution is a major contributor to ocean contamination, researchers have found in the first detailed watershed-scale 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 small toxic particles.
Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic debris, including microbeads, microfibers and plastic fragments.
They have long been known to enter river systems from multiple sources, including industrial effluents, storm sewers and domestic wastewater.
However, although around 90% of microplastic contamination in the oceans comes from land, not much is known about their movements.
Most of the rivers examined contained around 517,000 plastic particles per square meter, according to researchers from the University of Manchester who carried out the detailed study.
After a period of major flooding, researchers resampled all sites.
They found that contamination levels had dropped in the majority of them and that the floods had removed around 70% of the microplastics stored in the riverbeds.
This demonstrates that flooding can transfer large amounts of microplastics from urban rivers to the oceans.