Babies could be ingesting millions of microplastics through feeding bottles, study finds

Emma Gatten
·2-min read
baby bottle
baby bottle

Babies could be ingesting more than a million pieces of microplastics through their feeding bottles every day, according to a new study. 

Although numerous studies have shown that humans and animals are ingesting microplastics from a wide range of sources, there is still relatively little known about the subsequent impact on health. 

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin looked at ten different kinds of plastic bottle that account for nearly 70 per cent of the global market. 

They found that 1-16 million microplastic particles were released in every litre, when prepared using recommended cleaning, sterilising and mixing techniques, with levels consistent even three weeks after the first use

The researchers then used these figures to estimate how many microplastic particles babies may consume, based on data on national breastfeeding rates, to find that the average bottle-fed baby could be ingesting 1.6 million plastic microparticles every day during the first year of their lives.

Adults are estimated to ingest around 100,000 microplastic particles annually. 

Rates of microplastic ingestion are likely to be higher in Europe and North America than Africa and Asia, the study said, because of higher bottle-feeding rates, with estimates rising to 2.3 million particles daily in North America and 2.6 million in Europe. 

The researchers stressed the need for further research to be done into the possible impact on health. 

While many microplastics are assumed to pass through the body, there are concerns that the tiniest could enter the bloodstream, or carry toxins into the body. 

The study also found that more particles were released at higher temperatures, with numbers ranging from 0.6 million particles per litre on average at 25C to 55 million per litre at 95C.

That is consistent with other studies that have looked at microplastics leaching from plastic teabags and kettles. 

Dr Fay Couceiro, a senior research fellow in biogeochemistry at the University of Portsmouth, who was not involved in the study, said the results of the study showed the urgency for more research into impacts on human health. 

“Despite these concerns, it is important not to become alarmist and formula feeding is a necessity for many parents who cannot breastfeed for a variety of reasons,” she added.