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Scientists make concerning discovery while studying human placentas: 'That's not good'

"If we are seeing effects on placentas, then all mammalian life on this planet could be impacted."

"If we are seeing effects on placentas, then all mammalian life on this planet could be impacted."

Photo Credit: iStock

Scientists have discovered a concerning sign that plastic may be continuing to impact the trajectory of us and our planet in ways that are still unclear. 

What happened?

As detailed by the Guardian, researchers found microplastics in all 62 of the human placentas they examined. Polyethylene, commonly used in single-use bags and bottles, was the most frequently detected type of tiny particle. 

"If we are seeing effects on placentas, then all mammalian life on this planet could be impacted. That's not good," University of New Mexico professor Matthew Campen told the outlet. 

The findings were published in the journal Toxicological Sciences.

Why is this concerning?

The effects of the particles on our health are still being investigated, but research indicates that they are making a troublesome impact.

Microplastics, which are less than five millimeters long, have been linked to DNA damage in humans as well as immune and metabolic system issues. 

Campen told the Guardian that they may also be behind a confounding uptick in inflammatory bowel disease, declining sperm counts, and colon cancer diagnoses in people under 50. 

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The fact that microplastics were found in placentas was particularly worrying because the organ develops for only eight months during pregnancy. 

"Other organs of your body are accumulating over much longer periods of time," Campen explained

Microplastics have also been found in human hearts and blood, in the lungs of living people, and in other tissues

What can be done about this? 

Microplastics have been found just about everywhere, including in rainwater, but scientists have been working to limit our exposure to the particles and reduce plastic waste, with specialty water filters and plastic-eating bacteria among the solutions.   

New technologies happily appear to be around the corner, but rethinking our relationship with the material is the best thing we can do to support those efforts. 

According to the U.N. Environment Programme, one million plastic bottles are bought each minute, and the world goes through as many as five trillion plastic bags every year. 

Switching to reusable bottles and grocery bags can help reduce toxic plastic waste that then breaks down into these concerning particles.

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