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Microplastic particles travel to the placenta, study confirms

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Microplastics come from the breakdown of larger plastic items or fibers and beads that are used in some beauty and cleaning products.

The Canadian Press

The analysis of around sixty placenta samples shows that they are all contaminated by microplastics, shows a study recently published by the journal Toxicological Sciences (New window ) (in English).

The samples came from a biobank established between 2011 and 2015, showing that human exposure to even smaller micro- and even nanoplastics, while currently garnering much attention, is not new. not yesterday.

We can expect that there will be other studies that will come out with more recent tissues, estimated Professor Cathy Vaillancourt, a specialist in the implication of environmental factors on neuroendocrinology of the human placenta at the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS).

For me, this study shows the importance of studying the placenta. If we are already exposed in utero to these agents, it is doubly important to make regulations based on them, and to have guidelines that are for pregnant people.

A quote from Cathy Vaillancourt, professor at INRS

American researchers found concentrations ranging from 6.5 to 790 micrograms of microplastics per gram of fabric. They mainly detected polyethylene (which is used in the manufacture of plastic bags and bottles), PVC – or poly(vinyl chloride) – and nylon in their samples.

Micro and nanoplastic particles come from the breakdown of larger plastic items. Microplastics range in size from one micrometer (one millionth of a meter) to around five millimeters. We measure the size of nanoplastics in billionths of a meter. For comparison, the circumference of a human hair is approximately 70 micrometers.

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Nanoplastic particles are so tiny that they can enter into the bloodstream (for example, by crossing the intestinal barrier) and travel directly to the organs.

The impact of these particles on human health is still poorly understood, but they possibly interfere with the functioning of certain organs (including the brain) and that of the reproductive system. They could also have carcinogenic properties, be a source of oxidative stress and imitate the action of certain hormones (what are called endocrine disruptors). Other studies implicate them in inflammatory bowel diseases.

What we know with animal models is that they (plastics) alter the structure and therefore the functions of the placenta, underlined Ms. Vaillancourt.

Any defect or change in placental function is an indicator that something has happened during pregnancy, and this can have serious consequences. short, medium and long term impacts on the baby's health, but also on the mother.

A quote from Cathy Vaillancourt, professor at INRS

The placenta exists to protect both the baby and the mother, she continues, but at some point, it exceeds this capacity, and we know that Alterations in the placenta or in its functioning will be associated with developmental problems.

We often tend to think that the placenta is a […] safety barrier, and that what does not pass from mother to baby is not dangerous, but this is a myth because what affects the placenta will affect the baby, even if it does not reach the baby, warned Ms. Vaillancourt.

But the problem of nanoplastics is even more worrying and more complex than it appears at first glance, warns Professor Daniel Cyr, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Reproductive Toxicology at INRS.

Microplastics, he points out, can cause inflammation, and inflammation will have the effect of opening cellular barriers that would otherwise remain closed.

And it's not just the type or size of the plastic, Professor Cyr said.

There are more and more studies (which show) that there are a bunch of other molecules that can bind to plastics, such as pollutants, pesticides, hydrocarbons, metals. … We did not realize that all of these products can be transported by microplastics to certain organs.

A quote from Daniel Cyr, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Reproductive Toxicology at INRS

Microplastics, he says, allow these unwanted substances to bypass the body's defense systems to infiltrate every nook and cranny.

The question that therefore arises, obviously, is whether and how it is possible to minimize our exposure to these particles.

It's been several years that people are told to be careful, not to reuse disposable plastics, recalled Professor Cyr. We use less and less plastics, we release less and less of them into the environment, but it will take a grandiose effort because (plastics are) really the new dioxin of the 2000s. Over time we talked about dioxin as being widespread everywhere, just as nanoplastics are everywhere on the planet, and the only way to stop that is going to be to stop using them.

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