So the saying goes, Breast is best. When you add in new-found risks, does that really hold true? While microplastics in water supplies has been a concern for a while, recent research revealing that they are present in human breast milk raises more alarm. The prevalence of plastics across the globe could make it difficult for breastfeeding to continue.
According to the EPA, in the U.S. alone in 2018, 35.7 million tons of plastic was produced, resulting in startling numbers of plastic waste. Plastic particles can be produced by water bottles, food containers, cosmetics, and microfibers made from textiles. Only 2.5 million tons (or less than 15%) of textile waste were recycled in 2018. Microplastics can also be formed from larger plastics.
Researchers have found microplastics in human breastmilk.
Although microplastics have not been proven to be harmful to human and public health in epidemiological studies, tests on mice in laboratories show that they are. They can cause inflammation, Lower sperm count?, and Fewer pups are possible.
Breast milk contains microplastics
Recent research found that Publication in the journal, June 20, 222. PolymersResearchers looked at 34 mothers who had given birth in Rome, Italy. Among the 34 breast milk samples examined, 26 contained microplastics—mostly polyethylene, PVC, and polypropylene, which are mainly found in packaging.
Even when accounting for the women’s age, diet (especially that of seafood or items from plastic packaging), and use of personal care products that contain plastic compounds, no significant difference was made in the findings of microplastics in breast milk.
Valentina Notarstefano, a researcher at Universita Politecnica della Marche and one of the study’s authors, Submitted The GuardianThese findings are extremely alarming.
In the paper, the authors suggested that microplastics in breastmilk might be more common than they had previously reported. “It should be stated that the number of microparticles that we detected could be underestimated, since only … ~4 g of milk was considered for each sample.”
What should nursing mothers do now?
This could be a good thing for breastfeeding
Although the findings are troubling, the researchers hesitated to suggest that nursing mothers switch to formula yet.
“It will be crucial to assess ways to reduce exposure to these contaminants during pregnancy and lactation,” Notarstefano told The Guardian. “But it must be stressed that the advantages of breastfeeding are much greater than the disadvantages caused by the presence of polluting microplastics. Studies like ours must not reduce breastfeeding of children, but instead raise public awareness to pressure politicians to promote laws that reduce pollution.”
Additionally, Research has previously shown that microplastics are still being ingested by bottle-fed infants.Due to the high temperatures required to sterilize bottles or prepare formula.
The researchers emphasize the need to continue research, particularly since infants and newborns are more at risk from chemical contaminants.
What are our next steps?
With microplastics everywhere, it’s clear that a greater focus should be placed on their impact on human health, especially on newborns and young children. Another priority should be to reduce plastic packaging and trash.
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The study didn’t find any specific cause for microplastics, but Nostastefano said that it did. The Guardian that, “we would like to advise pregnant women to pay greater attention to avoiding food and drink packaged in plastic, cosmetics, and toothpastes containing microplastics, and clothes made of synthetic fabrics.”
Scientists are just beginning to understand how our most vulnerable population is affected by microparticle exposure, but it’s increasingly difficult to ignore the dangers. First, it is important to be informed and take steps towards reducing plastic waste and possible negative exposure.