More evidence that we're drowning in microplastic particles.
- Italian researchers have discovered microplastic particles in human placenta.
- Out of six collected placentas, four contained colored plastic microparticles.
- That petrochemical pollutants are present in such a critically important organ is alarming.
The study<p>The authors of the Italian study collected placentas from six mothers. They did this in a plastic-free environment so as to avoid contamination. Doctors and midwives wearing cotton gloves performed the collection from mothers covered only in cotton towels. Metal clippers and scalpels were used.</p><p>The six placentas were evaluated using microspectroscopy. Samples from four of the placentas contained colored microplastics. A total of 12 pieces, between 5 and 10 micrometers, were collected — at this size, the contaminants were small enough to be carried in the mother's or child's bloodstream.</p><p>Considering that the samples constituted just about 4 percent of the organs, it's reasonable to suspect that the researchers' findings represent just the tip of the iceberg.</p><p>Four of the pieces were found in tissues on the maternal side, the outside of the placenta, and five were found in the space in which the fetus had been. The remaining three were located in the fine membrane wall surrounding the amniotic fluid in the placenta.</p><p>All of the microplastics were colored, dyed red, blue, orange, and pink, but beyond that the researchers were only partially able to identify the materials with greater specificity, writing, "All of them were pigmented; three were identified as stained polypropylene a thermoplastic polymer, while for the other nine it was possible to identify only the pigments, which were all used for man-made coatings, paints, adhesives, plasters, finger paints, polymers and cosmetics and personal care products."</p><p>Understanding how the microplastics found their way in the mothers' placentas is beyond the scope of the research, but there's plenty of evidence that plastics are everywhere, from the products we use to the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/11/climate/airborne-plastic-pollution.html" target="_blank">air we breathe</a>, and so on. One study found that after babies are born, the infusion of microplastics begins right away— <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/19/bottle-fed-babies-swallow-millions-microplastics-day-study" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">millions of particles</a> a day are swallowed by infants drinking form plastic bottles.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5NTgxNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1OTMzNzcwMX0.iqK3zk_b6F757ckJ1LFT4eDOTiv48oBPFtNHvP5e2d0/img.jpg?width=980" id="6f6b7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d10819af3722b3233e75cbc68255c452" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="1080" />
Credit: Jonathan/Adobe Stock
A critical environment<p>The placenta plays a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/15/health/the-push-to-understand-the-placenta.html" target="_blank">critical role</a> in the development of a fetus, delivering nutrition and oxygen, handling waste disposal, and generally doing the job of keeping the fetus alive until its own organs develop enough to take over. The placenta also keeps the infant free of contaminants, or is supposed to, filtering out pathogens. It is also believed to be instrumental in facilitating the myriad chemical process involved in fetal development.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Due to the crucial role of placenta in supporting the foetus's development and in acting as an interface with the external environment, the presence of potentially harmful plastic particles is a matter of great concern. Further studies need to be performed to assess if the presence of microplastics may trigger immune responses or may lead to the release of toxic contaminants, resulting in harm." — Ragusa, et al.</p><p>Study leader Antonio Ragusa, of the San Giovanni Calibita Fatebenefratelli hospital in Rome <a href="https://www.repubblica.it/salute/2020/12/09/news/trovate_per_la_prima_volta_microplastiche_nella_placenta_umana-277658153/" target="_blank">says</a>, "It is like having a cyborg baby: no longer composed only of human cells, but a mixture of biological and inorganic entities." He adds, "The mothers were shocked."</p><p>Chemists Elizabeth Salter Green tells <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/22/microplastics-revealed-in-placentas-unborn-babies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Guardian</a>, "Babies are being born pre-polluted. The study was very small but nevertheless flags a very worrying concern."</p>
The researchers hope to develop a no-trace plastic to curtail marine pollution and ghost fishing.
- Cornell University chemists have developed a polymer with the strength of industrial-grade plastics but degrades quickly in sunlight.
- They hope the plastic will one day be used to make fishing nets that leave no environmental trace.
- Their research joins other programs and initiatives aimed at restoring our oceans.
A lot of hard work for (hopefully) nothing<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE2MjMyNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDIxOTI2N30.sNuhGWLlXUayYhfuw8yb8lllGjOmPkXEedeCvzOSwTw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C96%2C0%2C96&height=700" id="dbd14" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="33853c60e6f3be3fecdb198dd5351282" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Commercial fishing nets are made of polymers that are strong but take hundreds of years to degrade.
The deadliest catch<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE2MjMyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzQ5MzY2MX0.6_DlCIrKzb7CIqE2-ZDPXYYsV7ao2xtko0ME9odJOj4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C763%2C0%2C763&height=700" id="3fa7d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d49eebe85430d3668ed4483c7ef5ecfb" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A sea turtle caught in ghost gear.
Not too late<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE2MjMyMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTA3MDcxNn0.bzbtBMEFpS7L-2E5g2K4IdLc0qnxgVrJdf1ajZRlWnc/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="fc176" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fce6646a76e0266715a4bc334e11d44c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Volunteers collect rubbish from the Aegean sea to protect biodiversity.
These compostable espresso pods are the eco-friendly way to get your caffeine fix.
- The coffee pod revolution saved us time and effort but has been horrible for the environment.
- The single-use plastics used in most pods sit in landfills for years.
- Fortunately, a new wave of eco-friendly compostable pods is coming to the market.
A new study says that it could be centuries before millions of the classic toys submerged in the Earth's seas disintegrate.
- A new study by researchers from the University of Plymouth estimates that it could be up to 1,300 years before LEGO pieces lost to the sea disintegrate.
- Researchers collected fifty LEGO pieces washed up on beaches in southwest England and compared them to archived blocks in their original condition.
- The classic children's toy is made of an incredibly durable material called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), a rock-solid polymer.
Research findings<p>In a study published in <em>Environmental Pollution</em>, researchers from the University of Plymouth collected fifty LEGO pieces from beaches in southwest England. The chemicals in the weathered samples were then compared to archived LEGO pieces in their original forms. </p><p>"Using measured mass loss of paired (weathered versus unweathered) equivalents and the age of blocks obtained from storage we estimate residence times of between about 100 and 1300 years for this type and thickness of plastic, with variations reflecting differences in precise additive composition and modes of weathering," the authors write.</p>
How did so many LEGO’s get in the ocean?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="13b8b58c6b99ed94749f5993dcddeebe"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RoKYTPcc1ik?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>So, why are there so many LEGOs at sea anyways? Well, kids, being kids, tend to flush them down the toilet. It's estimated that 2 million bits of LEGO have been lost to the sewage system. There was also the unfortunate <a href="https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/59913/18-years-after-spill-ocean-lego-pieces-still-wash-ashore" target="_blank">LEGO-spill incident of 1997</a>, when nearly 5 million pieces of the toy fell overboard on a container ship.</p><p>Organizations in the United Kingdom like Rame Peninsula Beach Care and the LEGO Lost at Sea Project have done their part to save thousands of the tiny plastic toys from beaches. But if you've ever had the experience of stepping on a LEGO brick, you know how sturdy they feel. This new research suggests that their mass and chemical make-up is truly close to indestructible. More likely than not, these blocks will be washing up on shores centuries from now. It's not entirely clear how these recently discovered LEGOs entered the ocean, but they do match up with toys sold in the 1970s and 80s. And although they have spent decades being weathered, weakened, and yellowed by the sea, researchers were shocked to find them still relatively intact. </p><p>"Lego is one of the most popular children's toys in history and part of its appeal has always been its durability," said the study's leader<a href="https://phys.org/news/2020-03-lego-bricks-survive-ocean-years.html" target="_blank"> Andrew Turner</a> from the University of Plymouth who studies the chemical properties of marine litter. </p><p>"It is specifically designed to be played with and handled, so it may not be especially surprising that despite potentially being in the sea for decades it isn't significantly worn down. However, the full extent of its durability was even a surprise to us."</p>
The indestructible LEGO material<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg4NzE3OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDE4MTMyOH0.VOzCulUGLVzMR2_BcvFUozYGD6ad2C-94Ws0lFiOsis/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C315%2C0%2C315&height=700" id="2e204" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e67b45a3da8d60a04f387a7679fb5060" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Graphene is insanely useful, but very difficult to produce — until now.
- Graphene is a lattice of carbon atoms arranged in a chicken-wire formation, a structure that makes it very useful for a wide range of applications.
- However, it's been very difficult and expensive to make.
- This new technique cuts down on the cost and difficulty by flash heating any carbon-based material, such as used coffee grounds or plastic waste.
What is graphene?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU3NjI2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MzI0MjE3Nn0.RSyt5IKeTRUpaVKGRPzbeUPnDZZEkO6tIGEy1hKulrw/img.jpg?width=980" id="41118" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="50c393511cc3e408c5ffdcf1959142d4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="960" data-height="597" />
A rendering of graphene.