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The Unseen Pollution Health Hazard in Baby Food and Baby Products

Pollution isn’t only the trash that is visible on our beaches and landfills; it is getting into our food chain, baby food, and baby bottles.

Copyright: goodluz
By nature, I’m very care-taking. There’s something really beautiful about cooking for someone and feeding them. — Eric Balfour

Pollution doesn’t hide in our environment. We see it everywhere in our oceans, on our beaches, in huge landfills, the air, and we smell it. But one form of pollution is being missed, and it is potentially the most dangerous — microplastics.

But even here, we are still missing the life-changing microform of pollution that hides from sight in our food and our drinking water, which we serve to our precious babies. Formula contains more than formula.

Not only are these potentially dangerous substances present in foods, but the bottles we use to feed our babies their formula also increases the ingestion of plastics by our infants.

“Scientists have found evidence that humans also drink, eat, and inhale tens of thousands of microplastics each year, and a study published … in Nature Food estimates that babies may be ingesting up to 16 million microplastic particles per liter of baby formula prepared using a polypropylene bottle.”

The urgency of the problem cannot be ignored, as outlined in The Lancet. However, while we consider microplastics of concern, there is another form of degraded plastic that is even more dangerous to our health, nanoplastics. This is the final breakdown of all plastics that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

There are no standard sampling, extraction, and identification methods for microplastics. The problem of assessing their presence as well as nanoplastics in the natural environment, therefore, becomes more problematic.

The professional literature has not given great attention to this form of nanoplastic pollution, and its significance in the environment is being overlooked. The current, inadequately researched understanding of nanoplastics is that they result from erosion or breaking down of large plastic debris and plastic fibers in clothing. Microplastic has even been found in sea salt, something we assume is safe.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Nanoplastics are unintentionally produced from the decomposition of plastic litter. Due to this material's extremely small size, it is believed they can interact with both bacteria and phytoplankton, which will find their way into the food chain and our water supply.

“Microscopic plastic fibers are flowing out of taps from New York to New Delhi, according to exclusive research by Orb and a researcher at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. From the halls of the U.S. Capitol to the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda, women, children, men, and babies are consuming plastic with every glass of water.”

These materials are not only found in water. Nanoplastic has been found in human placenta. “Currently no data exist for potential adverse perturbations caused by nanoplastics, despite the reports demonstrating that nanoplastics reach the placental tissue.”

Placenta samples in another nanoplastic study were found to be dyed blue, red, orange, and pink, suggesting it came from packaging, paints, cosmetics, and personal-care materials.

The material that ends up in our supply of potable water and, therefore, begins its attack early on, as research has shown in baby formula preparation. While you’re thinking about water, give a thought to that insignificant plastic teabag instead of the paper teabags you might use.

Are you aware that these bags are responsible for releasing billions of microparticles as well as nanoparticles? A researcher in a study on plastic teabags indicated the number of nanoparticles was “several orders of magnitude higher than plastic…in other foods.” Tea may be comforting, but the bag should cause you concern.

Copyright : Olga Yastremska

Feeding Our Babies Plastic

The baby feeding bottles used for formula alone are also contaminated, like the baby food and packaging for cereals. The usual process of heating the formula releases pollutants into the baby’s formula.

“PP infant feeding bottles (IFBs) are widely used for the preparation of infant formula.IFBs are routinely exposed to high-temperature water and endure shaking during formula preparation procedures. Since mechanical friction force can break down PP into MPs22–25, there is the potential for MP release from PP IFBs. We demonstrate that infant exposure to microplastics is higher than was previously recognized due to the prevalence of PP-based products used in formula preparation and highlight an urgent need to assess whether exposure to microplastics at these levels poses a risk to infant health.”

We know that foods, formula, bottles, and containers all have hidden plastics, but what about something else we give to our teething infants?

Legislation has removed several pollutants from materials used by both adults and children. However, the danger still exists. Advocates for a change, specifically in teething rings for infants, have recommended returning to more natural products, including jade rings, wood, and bamboo.

The primary concern of exposure is to phthalates, which enter the body via inhaled and an oral ingestion route. These materials are in everything from milk and dairy products, fishes, processed meat, poultry, eggs, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages (dissolved in the water), cereals, vegetables, infant formulas, and breast milk around the globe.

Of great concern is its potential effect on the endocrine system and child development. Children exposed to this substance may have an increased risk of allergic diseases such as asthma and eczema, in addition to potential increases in autism.

Inhibition in normal developmental milestones is facilitated by increasing ingestion by the hand-to-mouth activity of infants and toddlers—additional concerns about phthalate exposure by studies showing a change in gestational length and infant size at birth.

A higher incidence of ADHD-like behavior in children 4-7 years old whose mothers had been exposed to higher levels of these metabolic concentrations has also been noted.

Photo by Louis Reed

Are Bacteria One Hope?

Normal plastic degradation is a lengthy process, and then it doesn’t degrade completely but remains in the environment in the two forms mentioned, microplastics and nanoplastics. But there is one hope in addition to changes in our packaging and processing methods — bacteria.

“Although the problem of plastics still remains unsolved, different ways are being considered to reduce their impact on the environment. One of them is to use microorganisms capable of degradation of plastic. A particularly interesting area is the application of microorganisms isolated from cold regions in view of their unique characteristics.”

The solutions appear to be in three areas; reformulation of product packaging, reconsideration of our throw-away culture, and how we can clean up our environment with or without bacteria.

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