On December 22, 2020, The Guardian reported on a new research study in which microplastics have been discovered in the placentas of unborn babies for the first time.

A total of a dozen plastic particles was found in the placentas of four healthy women who all had normal pregnancies and births. According to the researchers, this finding is a “matter of great concern.” The authors argue that even though the effects on the body are unknown, there is an urgent need to assess this issue because these particles could contain chemicals with potential long-term adverse effects for the fetus.

The particles had sizes of about 0.01 mm and were detected on both the fetal and maternal sides of the placenta as well as in the membrane within which the fetus develops. The authors hypothesize the particles could have entered the women’s bodies through oral or respiratory exposure routes, for example from packaging, paints, cosmetics, or personal care products.

In the study, the researchers concluded: “Due to the crucial role of the placenta in supporting the fetus’s development and in acting as an interface with the external environment, the presence of potentially harmful plastic particles is a matter of great concern. Further studies need to be performed to assess if the presence of microplastics may trigger immune responses or may lead to the release of toxic contaminants, resulting in harm.”

Elizabeth Salter Green from the chemical-focused charity ChemTrust, said: “Babies are being born pre-polluted. The study was very small but nevertheless flags a very worrying concern.”


Ragusa et al (December 2, 2020). “Plasticenta: First evidence of microplastics in human placenta.” Environment International

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Damian Carrington (December 22, 2020). “Microplastics revealed in the placentas of unborn babies.” The Guardian