‘Microplastics in human body could have a detrimental effect on children and pregnant mothers’.
Usage of plastic has become a bane for human kind, and a series of recent studies have found microplastics in human blood and tissues for the first time, raising concern in the medical fraternity over its impact on human health.\
A recent study published in the international medical journal “Lancet” shows that plastic has been entering the human body through food in the form of micro plastics and it was detected in human blood and human faeces which could have detrimental effect on the health of humans, especially children and pregnant mothers.
“Microplastics disrupt the integrity of the intestinal barrier and can be uptaken into the bloodstream. Therefore, ingested and inhaled microplastics can potentially be trapped and accumulate in different tissues and organs, such as lungs or placenta. Whether the amount of microplastics found in human organs is enough to produce health damaging effects is, however, still unclear, although the smallest particles (nanoplastics) might actually enter cells, trigger the inflammatory response and interfere with the normal cellular activity,” the Lancet study published last year claimed.
Doctors in India have also claimed that they have started to detect microplastics in the human placenta and this could potentially become a health hazard for the new born child.
Dr Syed Mustafa Hasan, Director and Senior Consultant, Paediatrics and Neonatology, at Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital, Delhi, told The Sunday Guardian, “Placenta plays a vital role in providing nutrients and protection to the developing foetus, and any potential disruption caused by microplastics could become a problem. However, the health effects of human exposure to microplastics are still under investigation, it is crucial to grasp the current understanding and recommendations regarding this issue.”
Microplastics, tiny plastic particles or microscopic tiny plastic particles that enter the human body through various means, can flow through the bloodstream and settle in the various organs and tissues. The detection of microplastics in human breast milk has also raised red flags amongst the medical fraternity across the world.
Dr Anita Kant, chairman, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Asian Hospital, Faridabad, told The Sunday Guardian, “Microplastics in new born babies through breast milk and the placenta affects both maternal and infant health. Microplastics, small plastic particles that have become widespread environmental pollutants, are detected in breast milk and the placenta. This suggests a potential pathway for their transfer from mother to the newborn. Understanding the exposure mechanisms and sources is crucial for assessing the associated risks.”
While the direct health effects of microplastics on newborns are not fully understood, their potential impact on the developing reproductive and endocrine systems is significant. Microplastics may contain harmful chemicals that can disrupt hormonal balance and reproductive function, potentially affecting future reproductive health and fertility.
Dr Rahul Manchanda, a senior gynaecologist at PSRI Hospital in Delhi, said that though the direct health effects of microplastics on newborns are not yet fully understood, considering their potential impact on long-term health is important.
The toxic substances in microplastic can also been associated with the increasing number of cases of cancer across the globe. Several other researches are underway to ascertain all the associated health risks. In the last few decades, more than 8,300 million metric tonnes of plastics have been produced, and the subsequent plastic wastes have been accumulating in marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats, following their own biogeochemical cycle. At the current rate of production, it is predicted that over 10,000 million metric tonnes of mismanaged plastic wastes will be dispersed in the natural environment by 2050 and this is evident from plastics being found on the highest point on Earth–Mt Everest–to the deepest point on Earth—the Mariana Trench.