“Preliminary [rodent] studies from our group, and published studies from others, indicate that after maternal exposure, these particles have the propensity to cross the placental barrier and enter the fetal compartment, depositing in fetal organs,” Stapleton says.
What’s not clear, though, is how this plastic exposure affects human health.
“These plastic particles are in our air, in our water and in our soil,” she says.
found that microplastic particles were blowing through the air of the verdant Pyrenees Mountains in France. “Every time and everywhere we look for plastics in a scientific context, we find them,” says Phoebe Stapleton, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University. A small 2018 study analyzed stool samples taken from people in Finland, Japan, Italy, Russia and other countries. “We know that humans are exposed to these particles,” Stapleton says.
“We’re all exposed to so many chemicals every day that if you’re 30 and you develop some rare form of cancer, no one’s ever going to be able to connect that to something you were exposed to,” Mason says.
“Making that connection is basically impossible.” More of Mason’s research has found plastic contamination in tap water, beer and sea salt.
“Bottled water is marketed as though it’s cleaner than tap, but numerous studies show it’s definitely not cleaner,” Mason says.
“Based on all the data we have, you’re going to be drinking significantly less plastic from tap water out of a glass than if you go and buy bottled water.” A statement from Nestlé Waters North America included assurances of their water products’ quality and safety.
Mason’s findings generated headlines and a World Health Organization announcement that the group plans to investigate the safety of bottled water.
(The results of that review should be published later this year, according to a WHO spokesperson.) But Mason says the problem of microplastic contamination is far bigger than bottled H2O.