Study finds microplastics linked to thousands of premature births

A recent study found that microplastics, also known as phthalates, are linked to a rise in premature births in the U.S.

The study, published on Feb. 6 in the medical journal The Lancet, analyzed daily exposure to phthalates, synthetic chemicals commonly used in everyday items like containers and wrappers. 

Using data from over 5,000 mothers, researchers determined that longterm exposure to such chemicals resulted in increased risk of premature births. 

Scientists noted that in 2018, exposure to these forever chemicals attributed to nearly 60,000 premature births that year. 

What are microplastics and nanoplastics?

Microplastics are pieces of plastic that measure less than 5 millimeters and nanoplastics measure less than 1 micrometer. So in short, they are very small pieces of plastic that are not easily detectable to the naked eye. 

"We don’t blame the pregnant person here," said researcher Brennan Baker. "We need to call out manufacturers and legislators to offer replacements [in food handling and packaging], and ones that may not be even more harmful."

RELATED: Pregnant women should avoid fast-food because of the microplastics found in wrappers: Study

In a separate study published last month by researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine, scientists found that ultra-processed food like the ones you eat at your favorite fast food restaurant is likely contaminated with micro-plastics or phthalates. 

These forever chemicals shed from food wrappers or workers' plastic gloves. These chemicals have been linked to autism, ADHD, preterm birth and low birth weight.

This is not the first study 

These micro-plastics are not just found in food wrappers. They are unfortunately found in nearly every aspect of our lives. 

A separate study published last year found that everyday consumer products including shower curtains, car upholstery, lunchboxes and shoes contain chemicals that increase growth of uterine tumors known as fibroids.

READ MORE: Study: Consumer products containing phthalates increase risk of uterine tumor growth

In 2023, dozens of companies involved in food packaging received pressure after the toxic industrial compound PFAS was detected in fast-food wrappers, boxes and plates that consumers interact with on a daily basis, the Associated Press previously reported

Environmental and health groups have pushed dozens of fast food companies, supermarket chains and other retail outlets to remove PFAS chemicals from their packaging.