Microscopic plastic particles in the environment can pass from pregnant rats to their unborn offspring, potentially harming their development, US researchers have found.
A study at Rutgers University, New Jersey, looked at the effect of feeding pregnant rats microplastics and found that these particles can pass through to the placentas, livers, kidneys, hearts, lungs and brains of the foetuses.
Microplastics are part of plastic bottles and cosmetics, or are a product of the breakdown of larger plastics. They can be harmful to animals and are commonly found in food and water, but it is not yet known whether ingesting microplastics affects human health.
Dr Philip Demokritou at Rutgers said: “… we are trying to assess the health risks from such an emerging contaminant… The goal is also to increase the reuse and recycling of plastics and even replace them with biodegradable, biopolymer-based plastics.”