In an article published on June 22, 2021, in the journal Pharmaceutics, Thorsten Braun and colleagues from Charité in Berlin, Germany, the Environment Agency Austria, and the Medical University of Vienna, Austria reported on the detection of microplastics larger than 50 µm in human placenta and meconium.
For the pilot study, ten common types of microplastics > 50 µm from two placentas and meconium acquired from cesarean deliveries were isolated and analyzed by Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) microspectroscopy after non-plastic material was chemically digested. According to the authors, they are the first to establish “a thorough protocol for the detection of MPs [microplastics] in the human placenta and fetal meconium in a real-life clinical setting.” Braun et al. detected polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, and polyurethane microplastics in the samples. However, polyurethane was also present in the airborne fallout of the operation theater. The scientists emphasized that microplastic screening in a clinical setting is challenging and prone to sample contamination. Thus, they also draw attention to interpreting their study results with caution.
This clinical study is the second of its kind to report microplastics in the human placenta. In December 2020, Ragusa et al. analyzed five placentas and identified microplastics in sizes from 5 to 10 µm (FPF reported). Moreover, five Horizon 2020 research projects are now working to better understand micro- and nanoplastic impacts on human health (FPF reported). One of the projects (AURORA) is specifically focusing on the assessment of microplastics’ effects in the placenta and the developing fetus.
Braun et al. (2021) “Detection of Microplastic in Human Placenta and Meconium in a Clinical Setting.” Pharmaceutics (published on June 22, 2021)
Ragusa et al. (2020). “Plasticenta: First evidence of microplastics in human placenta.” Environment International