- Micro plastics – what are they?
- Why should I worry about micro plastics and my baby?
- What the research says…
- What are the alternatives to plastic baby bottles?
- Final thoughts
Recent research shows that babies using plastic bottles are swallowing millions of micro plastics every day. Far more than anyone had first suspected. This new research is being described as a ‘milestone’ in the understanding of human exposure to micro plastics. However, the actual health impacts are still unknown.
Micro plastics – what are they?
Micro plastics are very small particles of plastic, which are less than 5mm in size. They can originate from a variety of different sources. These sources may include large pieces of plastic waste, or polypropylene items that degrade into smaller and smaller pieces.
We already know that micro plastics in the environment contaminate the food chain. But a recent study shows that exposure to micro plastics is far higher than previously thought. Especially when it comes to food preparation using plastic containers.
Why should I worry about micro plastics and my baby?
In a recent study, scientists from the Trinity College Dublin in Ireland measured the micro plastics released through the process of sterilising baby bottles and preparing baby formula. They followed the WHO international guidelines. These guidelines advise parents to sterilise baby bottles with hot water at a temperature of 95ºC. They also advise parents to prepare baby formula at 70ºC.
The researchers discovered that high levels of micro plastics are released from the plastic baby bottles during the process of both sterilising and preparing formula. This is due to the high temperatures used and the aggravation caused by shaking the bottles. Both steps produced a lot of micro plastics. Plus they also produce nano plastics which are even smaller than the width of a human hair. They are so small they are very hard to count. However, despite this difficulty, scientists estimate trillions are produced per litre of fluid.
Prof John Boland, at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, said “we were absolutely gobsmacked” at the number of microplastics produced by the plastic baby bottles”. A study last year by the World Health Organization estimated adults would consume between 300 and 600 pieces of micro plastics a day. Our average values (using the plastic baby bottles) were in the order of a million or (even) millions.”
What the research says:
The scientists combined their experimental data with rates of bottle-feeding and milk intake in 48 regions. These regions cover three-quarters of the global population. On average, the scientists estimate that babies are exposed to 1.6m microplastic particles a day during their first year when fed using plastic bottles. The US, Australia and European countries had the highest levels – more than 2m particles per day, due to higher levels of bottle feeding.
What are the alternatives to plastic baby bottles?
Unfortunately plastic baby bottles do still make up the majority of the world market. While there are strict rules in place about BPS and BPA-free plastic used for baby bottles, the discovery of micro plastics is another cause for concern. No-one really knows the consequences. However there is a healthy alternative, and that is glass!
Some parents try to avoid using glass baby bottles. Traditionally they are heavier for babies to hold, and of course they are breakable. However, the modern versions of glass baby bottles are now lighter and less prone to breaking. Many have shockproof designs and come with silicone sleeves for added protection.
The Cherub Baby range of glass baby bottles, sippy cups and straw cups are made from the highest quality tempered thermal shock resistant borosilicate glass (commonly used in science labs). This allows parents to use the bottles and cups safely from the freezer to placing them in boiling water, without fear of breaking. They come with a patented silicone sleeve with built in shock absorbers that help to prevent any breakage when dropped, and even come with a 1 year bottle drop guarantee!
Follow this link to read more about the benefits of glass baby bottles.
While this new study provides a crucial insight in to how micro plastics behave and how they are being ingested by babies, there is no conclusive evidence about the harmful effects. However, we do know that plastics shed micro particles as they wear down. Evidence is growing that humans regularly consume large amounts of micro plastic particles, either via the food chain or through the direct release of particles from plastic packaging or storage materials into our food.
Prevention is better than cure. Why wait for the studies to show the harmful effects of ingesting micro plastics? If you are concerned you can lower the risks by following the easy steps provided in this article, or make the switch to glass.