Scientists have discovered microplastics in human breast milk for the first time raising concern among researchers about the health ramifications for newborns. Breast milk samples were collected from 34 healthy mothers in Rome, Italy, a week after giving delivery, and 75 per cent of them had microplastics, The Guardian reported.
The mothers’ consumption of food and drink in plastic packaging and seafood was monitored, as was their usage of plastic-containing personal hygiene items. However, there was no correlation with the presence of microplastics. Therefore, the study further said that microplastics’ pervasive presence in the environment “makes human exposure inevitable”.
“So the proof of microplastics’ presence in breast milk increases our great concern for the extremely vulnerable population of infants,” said Dr Valentina Notarstefano, at the Universita Politecnica Delle Marche, in Italy. “It will be crucial to assess ways to reduce exposure to these contaminants during pregnancy and lactation,” she said.
“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,” Notarstefano added.
Previous studies have shown that microplastics are dangerous to human cell lines, lab animals, and marine species, but their impact on real humans is unknown. Plastics frequently include harmful chemicals, such as phthalates, which have previously been detected in breast milk.
The study, published in the journal Polymers, discovered microplastics made of polyethene, PVC, and polypropylene, all of which are often found in packaging. The researchers were unable to analyse particles smaller than 2 microns in size, and smaller plastic particles are likely to exist.