Skip bottled water over fears of “emerging pollutants,” scientists say

Stack of water bottles

Microwaving meals and bottled water should be avoided, scientists believe, as a study found microplastic particles can get into the brain, lungs and heart of unborn babies.

Scientists believe we need to “rethink” our use of plastic and suggest we should return to the 1950s preference for Pyrex for heating meals and abandon the plastic container approach first.

Increasingly, studies are discovering that microplastics — microscopic beads of plastic that form when plastic items are used and washed — are ubiquitous in nature.

They have been found at the bottom of the oceans, on mountains, and in the frozen tundra of Antarctica, and are found in the organs and blood of fish, humans, and other animals.

The field is still in its early stages, but there is growing evidence in both animal and human models that exposure to microplastics is likely to have adverse health effects.

A study last month found that microplastics can get into the fetus of a pregnant rat. It is the first time in a mammal that unborn offspring have been shown to be affected by maternal exposure to plastic.

dr Luisa Campagnolo, an expert in histology and embryology at the University of Rome Tor Vergata in Italy, while warning that the literature is inconclusive at this point and is rapidly evolving, said: “There is evidence that the fetus is most likely a Target for plastic particles.”

“I would avoid stuffing the placenta with plastic particles so as not to affect the fetus,” she added.

“It’s probably less convenient, but we shouldn’t be drinking plastic bottled water.

“We don’t need to freak out about sitting in a plastic chair, but I think we should avoid anything that’s disposable, anything that comes in contact with food, like using plastic containers in the microwave. We should go back to glass.

“Single-use plastic probably caught on 30-40 years ago, but we can reconsider that approach.”

The most recent rat study was conducted by Dr. Philip Demokritou, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who spoke about his work at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC. He told the media that the results were “very alarming”.

His team gave five pregnant rats a liquid solution that contained microplastics at a concentration similar to that found in humans. Within 24 hours, microplastics were found inside the fetus itself.

“More importantly, we found them in every organ of the fetus, suggesting potential developmental implications,” he said.

dr Demokritou called for more investment in research to understand the impact of plastic particles on human health and increased efforts to recycle materials or switch to more biodegradable alternatives.

He said: “I don’t want to scare people, but this is an emerging pollutant and we have a lot of unknowns about the risks.

“Each person consumes around 5 g of micro- and nanoplastics per week. That’s the equivalent of a credit card going through the stomach every week.”

dr Demokritou added: “We cannot go back to the Stone Age, but as a society we must become smarter and adopt sustainable concepts to avoid crises like this one.

“All of us, scientists, the public, society in general, regulators, we need to rethink how we make and use materials and chemicals in general.”

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