Microplastics Found in Human Placentas for the First Time

Researchers at San Giovanni Calibita Fatebenefratelli Hospital in Rome reported finding microplastic particles in the placenta of four women who had normal pregnancies and births. The babies were delivered using a plastic-free protocol to prevent contamination. The particles were found on both sides of the placenta and in the chorioamniotic membranes, most of them 10 microns in size, which means they are small enough to enter and travel through the bloodstream.

The microplastics may have emanated from packaging, paints, or cosmetics that were either used, consumed, or inhaled by the mothers. Globally, more than 300 million tons of plastics are produced each year. While only 9% of plastic waste is recycled, the majority ends up in landfills and waterways, polluting the environment. Previous studies have found microplastics in food, sea salt, and drinking water, but this is the first time they have reportedly been found in a human placenta — this discovery might point to broader contamination of the environment with microplastics.

In total, 12 pieces of plastics were found between the four women. Only 4% of each placenta was analyzed, so it's possible the total number of foreign bodies could be higher. Researchers say that further research is needed to determine how placental microplastics could impact fetal growth and immune system development.