Microplastics in Human Breastmilk


Microplastics in Human Breastmilk

"The widespread use of plastics determines the inevitable human exposure to its by-products, including microplastics (MPs), which enter the human organism mainly by ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact. Once internalized, MPs may pass across cell membranes and translocate to different body sites, triggering specific cellular mechanisms.

Hence, the potential health impairment caused by the internalization and accumulation of MPs is of prime concern, as confirmed by numerous studies reporting evident toxic effects in various animal models, marine organisms, and human cell lines.

In this pilot single-center observational prospective study, human breastmilk samples collected from N. 34 women were analyzed by Raman Microspectroscopy, and, for the first time, MP contamination was found in 26 out of 34 samples.

The detected microparticles were classified according to their shape, color, dimensions, and chemical composition. The most abundant MPs were composed of polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, and polypropylene, with sizes ranging from 2 to 12 µm.

MP data were statistically analyzed in relation to specific patients' data (age, use of personal care products containing plastic compounds, and consumption of fish / shellfish, beverages, and food in plastic packaging), but no significant relationship was found, suggesting that the ubiquitous MP presence makes human exposure inevitable." This was explained in a study published on the Polymers, titled Raman Microspectroscopy Detection and Characterization of Microplastics in Human Breastmilk.

Recent studies have shown that pollution by microplastics has reached the food chain affecting not only marine fauna but also foods such as sea salt, beer and honey. Although no specific studies have been conducted, there is also the possibility that the fragments reach our tables through the flesh; in fact, poultry and pigs are also fed with flours obtained from small fish that can be contaminated.

Some studies have found that a person can ingest up to 5 grams of it in a week. The German Institute for Food Risk Assessment (BfR) has invited the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to investigate to understand what are the effects of microplastics on human health.

Microplastics have been found inside the human organism, particularly in the placenta of gestating fetuses and in the blood circulation. Further traces of microplastic were found throughout the lung tissues.