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Researchers Find Microplastics In Human Breast Milk

by Rudy Sanchez on 10/14/2022 | 2 Minute Read

Microplastics, or pieces of synthetic material too small to see without a microscope, have appeared everywhere, including inside humans.

A new study, however, has made a further alarming discovery, especially among expecting and new mothers. Research published in the medical journal Polymers uncovered that microplastics found their way into breast milk in 26 out of 34 samples they studied. The most commonly found plastics included polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride. The pieces ranged in size between 2 and 12 µm. When comparing the amount collected relative to the specific patients’ data, such as age, diet, and use of cosmetics, researchers could not find a relationship, concluding that microplastic is so ubiquitous that exposure is inevitable.

The scientists selected 34 pregnant patients with no pregnancy complications and had them record their diets from a week before delivery to a week after. Researchers especially wanted to note fish, shellfish, and packaged foods. Scientists then carefully removed the samples' microplastic pieces from organic materials, taking as much care as possible to avoid introducing microplastics from the environment.

Researchers did not identify specific risk factors associated with microplastics in breast milk; still, they did raise concern over the possible harmful effects of microplastic exposure on vulnerable infants.

“We would like to advise pregnant women to pay greater attention to avoiding food and drink packaged in plastic, cosmetics, and toothpaste containing microplastics, and clothes made of synthetic fabrics,” said Dr. Valentina Notarstefano of the Università Politecnica delle Marche to The Guardian. Dr. Notarstefano is an author of the study.

“It will be crucial to assess ways to reduce exposure to these contaminants during pregnancy and lactation,” Notarstefano further remarked. “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.”