October 10, 2022 – Microplastic particles have been detected in human breast milk for the first time, according to A New study Posted in Polymers.
While more studies are needed, the researchers said, they said they were concerned about the potential health effects on children.
“The evidence of the presence of microplastics in breast milk heightens our grave concern for a particularly high-risk population of children,” Valentina Notarstefano, PhD, one of the study’s authors at the Universidad Politecnica della Marche in Italy, Tell Watchman.
“It will be necessary to evaluate ways to reduce exposure to these pollutants during pregnancy and lactation,” she said. “But it must be emphasized that the advantages of breastfeeding are much greater than the disadvantages caused by the presence of contaminated microplastics.”
The research team analyzed breast milk samples from 34 healthy mothers, which were taken a week after giving birth in Rome. Microplastics were detected in 26 samples, or 76%.
The researchers recorded the amount of food and drink the mothers consumed using plastic containers as well as their use of personal hygiene products made of plastic. But they found no link with the presence of microplastics in breast milk, suggesting that the widespread prevalence of microplastics in the environment “makes human exposure unavoidable,” the study authors wrote.
The research team also found microplastic particles in the human placenta in 2020, Watchman mentioned. Other studies have found microplastics in human blood, cow’s milk, and polypropylene bottles often used for bottle feeding. Although previous studies have indicated the toxic effects of microplastics in human cell lines, laboratory animals, and marine wildlife, the effects on living humans are still unknown.
In the latest study, researchers found that microplastics consist of polyethylene, polypropylene and polyvinyl chloride, which are found in plastic packaging. The team was unable to analyze particles smaller than 2 microns, but they said the smaller plastic particles were likely present in breast milk.
The research team was unable to identify risk factors associated with microplastics in breast milk. But Notartefano advised pregnant women to pay attention to the foods and drinks they consume in plastic containers, to clothes made of synthetic fabrics, and to cosmetics that contain microplastics.
“Studies like ours should not reduce the breastfeeding of children, but instead raise public awareness to pressure politicians to strengthen laws that reduce pollution,” she said.