A new study published in the journal Nature Food has revealed that babies around the world are consuming over 1.5 million microplastics each day. According to the study, microplastics are released in large quantities in baby plastic bottles, especially when the bottles are heated. But heating formula in the bottle is standard practice in preparing formula, and a majority of bottles on the market are plastic.
While the study has proven beyond doubt that plastic bottles are releasing microplastics, the researchers said that there is no need for alarm yet. According to Philipp Schwabl, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna who has also researched microplastics, parents should not be worried until more information is available. According to a report released by the World Health Organization last year, there is not sufficient evidence to show that microplastics are harmful to humans.
“At the moment, there is no need to be afraid,” Schwabl said. “But it is an open question and definitely an unmet [research] need.”
The study authors found that about 82% of all baby bottles sold globally are made out of polypropylene. Researchers reviewed 10 types of plastic baby bottles. When they were used to prepare infant formula, it was revealed that all 10 bottles released microplastics and nanoplastics. The infant formula was prepared according to the World Health Organization guidelines, which state that powdered formula should be mixed with water heated to about 158°F. The researchers concluded that the release of microplastics is heat-sensitive.
“What’s happening is that there’s an interaction between the [plastic] polymer and the water. It’s almost like flaking of the surface of the actual plastic itself,” said John Boland, a professor of chemistry and materials science researcher at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland and one of the authors of the study.
At the temperature of 158°F, most bottles released between 1 million and 16 million microplastics per liter. Further, the bottles also released millions of nanoplastics. The researchers said that more research needs to be done and more data collected to determine the exact effect of these plastic particles on babies and adults.
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