Bottle-fed babies ingest millions of microplastics daily, study finds
Daily Sabah: Bottle-fed babies may ingest more than a million pieces of microplastics each day, new research has shown, highlighting the abundance of plastics in our food products. There is growing evidence that humans consume huge numbers of the tiny particles, formed when larger pieces of plastic break down, but very little is known about the knock-on health consequences. Researchers in Ireland looked at the rate of microplastic release in 10 types of baby bottles used to prepare infant formula or accessories made from polypropylene, the most commonly used plastic for food containers. They followed official guidelines from the World Health Organization on sterilization and formula preparation conditions.
Over a 21-day test period, the team found that the bottles released between 1.3 million and 16.2 million plastic microparticles per liter when exposed to high temperatures. The study showed microplastic pieces were released in seven bottles because of heat while preparing formula. It also observed that the warmer the liquid inside, the more microplastics released. They then used this data to model the potential global infant exposure to microplastics from bottle-feeding, based on national average rates of breastfeeding.
They estimated that the average bottle-fed baby could be ingesting 1.6 million plastic microparticles every day during the first 12 months of their lives.
The authors of the research, published in the Nature Food journal, said that sterilization and exposure to high water temperatures had the biggest effect on microplastic release, going from 0.6 million particles per liter on average at 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) to 55 million per liter at 95 degrees Celsius.
“We demonstrate that infant exposure to microplastics is higher than was previously recognized due to the prevalence of polypropylene-based products used in formula preparation and highlight an urgent need to assess whether exposure to microplastics at these levels poses a risk to infant health,” the study said.
“The number of detected microplastic particles appears very high,” said Philipp Schwabl, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. “However, we do not know the impact of ingesting such microplastic levels on infants or generally on human health yet.”
The authors told Agence France-Presse (AFP), however, that the aim of the research was “not to worry parents” about the potential health risks of bottle microplastics.