The placenta carries oxygen and nutrition to the fetus and is also responsible for removing waste products from the baby. The placenta does not act as a filter as we commonly think of filters (such as coffee filters or air filters), holding onto toxins over the course of the pregnancy. It passes waste products back to the mother, so her kidneys can dispose of them.
We do know, however, that the placenta is unable to dispose of heavy metals, which is one of the reasons smoking and placentophagy do not mix well. Cigarettes contain high levels of cadmium, making a smoker’s placenta potentially dangerous to consume.
Arsenic, a heavy metal usually found in air, soil, and water is a known carcinogen. U.S. News and World Report recently published an article about a study that determined a woman’s placenta was a reliable biomarker for arsenic exposure during pregnancy.
“For this study, researchers compared arsenic concentrations detected in placental samples of 652 women with urine samples taken during pregnancy and post-delivery toenail clippings from mother and child. They also analyzed the link between placental arsenic and the women’s exposure to the metal from eating rice and drinking private well water.
The study, published recently in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, revealed that placenta arsenic concentrations correlated with the arsenic levels detected in the women’s urine as well as their toenails and the infants’ toenail clippings.”
The researchers at UNLV working on the much anticipated placebo vs. placenta study have also taken a look into heavy metal levels contained in the placenta. Stay tuned for more information.