- In total, 12 microplastic fragments were found in four placentas from six women
- Only 3 per cent of placenta was sampled, suggesting that total likely to be higher
- Placenta provides oxygen and nutrition to baby in the womb and removes waste
Microplastic particles have been found for the first time in the placenta of women after giving birth, according to a study.
It means they had ‘cyborg babies’ who incorporated pieces of plastic in their bodies, the lead author of the new research said.
The women involved in the study had no problems with their pregnancies and the effects on their babies are not known but experts fear chemicals in the plastics may interfere with their development.
Microplastic particles have been found for the first time in the placenta of women after giving birth, according to a study
The placenta provides oxygen and nutrition to the baby in the womb and removes waste.
In total, 12 microplastic fragments were found in four placentas from a study of six donated by women after birth.
Only 3 per cent of the placenta was sampled, suggesting that the total of microplastic pieces is likely to be much higher.
Dr Antonio Ragusa, director of the Uoc Obstetrics and Gynaecology Fatebenefratelli hospital in Rome where the research was conducted, said: ‘When I saw for the first time microplastics in the placenta, I was astonished.
‘If you find something in the placenta, this means you find something in the baby… It’s like having a cyborg baby: it is no longer made up of just human cells but a mixture of biological and inorganic materials.
‘With the presence of plastic in the body, the immune system is disturbed and recognises what is not organic.’
The particles could affect how the child’s genes are expressed, resulting in developmental changes, said Dr Ragusa, first author of the study published in the journal Environment International.
It is not known how the microplastics entered the placenta but it could be through food or drink, or by being breathed in.
In total, 12 microplastic fragments were found in four placentas from a study of six donated by women after birth
The Daily Mail has campaigned for more than a decade against plastic pollution, successfully leading calls for a levy on plastic bags in supermarkets and the removal of microplastics from cosmetics.
Charles Kingsland, clinical director at Care fertility clinics, said that while scientists did not know how microplastics in the placenta affected the unborn baby, they could potentially ‘poison the child directly’ or reduce its supply of oxygen, leading to some being stillborn and others being underweight.
He added: ‘This is potentially a very scary scenario. We have got to be a lot more aware of the potential damage we are doing.’
Elizabeth Salter Green, director of the chemicals charity CHEM Trust, said: ‘Babies are being born pre-polluted. The study was very small but nevertheless flags a very worrying concern.’
Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at King’s College London, said it was reassuring the babies in the study were born healthily but ‘it is obviously preferable not to have foreign bodies while the baby is developing’.