A recent study published in the journal Polymers has found microplastics in human breast milk for the first time, raising concerns regarding the health of infant babies among researchers.
The study titled Raman Microspectroscopy Detection and Characterisation of Microplastics in Human Breastmilk was conducted by researchers in Italy.
Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic that are found in straws and synthetic clothing. Microplastics are considered a major source of marine pollution, and are difficult to filter out because of how tiny the particles are.
This new study further substantiates what researchers have been warning of — that microplastics damage all parts of the body, as well as cause harm to breast-feedng babies.
What the Study Found
The study researchers tested breast milk samples of 34 healthy mothers a week postpartum.
According to the results, 75 percent of these samples were detected with microplastics.
The research found that the traces of microplastic were composed mainly of polyethylene, PVC and polypropylene, all of which are found in packaging.
The mothers' patterns of consumption of food and drinks in plastic packaging, and usage of personal hygiene products stored in plastic containers were then tracked.
However, no correlation was found with these products and the presence of microplastics in the samples.
The researchers concluded that this shows the presence of microplastics in today's environment "makes human exposure inevitable."
Why is it Significant?
Since breast milk is the primary source of food for newborns, the discovery of microplastics in breast milk has worried experts about chemical contamination in infants and the health complications that could result from it.
"The proof of microplastics’ presence in breast milk increases our great concern for the extremely vulnerable population of infants."Dr Valentina Notarstefano, study author, as quoted by The Guardian
She added that studies on microplastics "must not reduce breastfeeding of children, but instead raise public awareness to pressure politicians to promote laws that reduce pollution.”
Dr Notarstefano also added that pregnant women must "pay greater attention to avoiding food and drink packaged in plastic, cosmetics and toothpaste containing microplastics, and clothes made of synthetic fabrics,"
We still don't know the extent of how damaging microplastics can be to human health, however microplastics are known to cause inflammation, and cell damage.
The study authors concluded that further research will be needed "to deepen the knowledge of the potential health impairment caused by MP internalisation and accumulation, especially in infants."
They also added that in the meantime, reducing exposure to these contaminants, especially during pregnancy and lactation is our best bet.
(Written with inputs from the Guardian.)