The results of new scientific lab testing reveal that high levels of microplastic particles are released from baby bottles during formula preparation. That means that infants and young children may ingest unwanted microplastics along with their formula.
Study findings overview
The research team tested 10 baby bottles that account for nearly 7 out of 10 bottles used around the world to feed infants, and found that heat was closely tied to the release of particles.
The hotter the liquid inside a baby bottle, the more microplastics are released.
Bottles made of polypropylene plastic released up to 16.2 million microplastic particles per liter of liquid when sterilized and then exposed to warm 158-degree Fahrenheit water. Warmer water at 203 degrees Fahrenheit caused an even greater release of microplastic particles, as much as 55 million particles per liter.
“The number of detected microplastic particles appears very high. However, we do not know the impact of ingesting such microplastic levels on infants or generally on human health yet.”
-Dr. Philipp Schwabl, researcher, Medical University of Vienna
What We Do Know about Microplastics and Human Health
Plastics shed particles as they wear down. Evidence is growing that humans regularly consume large amounts of micro- and nanoplastic particles, either via the food chain or through the direct release of particles from plastic packaging or storage materials into our food. (Microplastic particles are 5 millimeters or smaller, no bigger than a sesame seed. Nanoplastic particles are even tinier, with a diameter of 1 micron — a human hair has a diameter of about 50 microns.)
Earlier this year, a study reported by the American Chemical Society found microscopic plastic particles in all the major filtering organs of the human body. Plastic had contaminated tissue samples taken from the lungs, liver, spleen and kidneys of donated human cadavers.
Researchers said parents can reduce the amount of plastic particles in their baby’s formula by following these recommendations:
- Allow the bottle to cool after sterilization, and rinse it out at least three times before use.
- Prepare infant formula in a non-plastic container, then transfer it into a baby bottle after it has cooled to room temperature.
- Don’t shake the formula in the bottle at any time.
- Do not reheat prepared formula in plastic containers.
- Switch to glass bottles.
Journal Reference: Schwabl, P. Microplastics in hot water, Nature Journal/Nature Food, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-020-00174-9