Release of microplastic fibres and fragmentation to billions of nanoplastics from period products: preliminary assessment of potential health implications†
Health effects related to the plastic content of disposable period products have not been recognized or scientifically addressed. To begin to understand their potential impact on the environment and human health, this study employed standardised in vitro tests (Syngina), infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), confocal Raman microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (FEG-SEM) and nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) to characterize the bulk chemical composition of different components in period products, and quantified the amount of fibres released using in vitro experiments, and measured their fragmentation into smaller particles (nanoplastics) under conditions that mimic vaginal fluids. It was found that 12 out of 24 of the tested products contain synthetic polymers (plastics) that would be in direct contact with the vaginal wall when in use. Many of the products released fibres during in vitro tests and also fragmented to release up to 17 billion nanoplastics per tampon. These micro fibres and nanoplastics could be released into the environment upon disposal. The health implications within the body are unknown, but due to the large quantity of nano size plastics being released, public health concern could manifest in three ways: from the nanoplastics themeselves, from release of contaminants adsorbed to the nanoplastics and finally, from leaching of additives associated with the production of the plastics.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Nano-bio interactions