Study reveals alarming levels of microplastics and nanoplastics released into food during microwave heating of plastic containers.
In a groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska, the shocking implications of microwaving plastics have been uncovered. The research, led by Kazi Albab Hussain and his team, delved into the release of microplastics and nanoplastics from plastic containers and reusable food pouches under various usage scenarios.
The findings, published in the Journal Environmental Science & Technology, have raised serious concerns about the potential health risks associated with the release of these tiny plastic particles into our food (full publication).
Microplastics and nanoplastics, minuscule plastic particles with diameters ranging from micrometers to nanometers, have become a ubiquitous concern due to their presence in various environments, including food products.
The research aimed to understand the extent to which microwaving plastic containers contributes to the release of these particles into the food.
The Shocking Results
The results of the study were startling. The researchers discovered that microwaving plastic containers caused the highest release of microplastics and nanoplastics into food compared to other scenarios like refrigeration or room-temperature storage.
Astonishingly, a single square centimeter of plastic area from certain containers released as many as 4.22 million microplastic particles and 2.11 billion nanoplastic particles within just three minutes of microwave heating.
Furthermore, the type of plastic used in the containers also played a role in the particle release. Polyethylene-based food pouches were found to release more particles compared to polypropylene-based plastic containers.
The Health Risks
The study also examined the potential health risks posed by these released particles.
Exposure modeling revealed that infants drinking microwaved water from plastic containers could have an estimated daily intake of 20.3 nanograms per kilogram of body weight, while toddlers consuming microwaved dairy products from polypropylene containers could intake 22.1 nanograms per kilogram of body weight.
To understand the toxic effects of the released microplastics and nanoplastics, the researchers conducted an in vitro study on human embryonic kidney cells.
The findings were alarming, showing that exposure to these particles at certain concentrations could lead to the death of a significant percentage of cells.
Implications of the Study
The implications of this study are profound. With plastic-based products being extensively used in food preparation, storage, and handling, the risk of releasing microplastics and nanoplastics directly into our food has increased substantially. The research emphasizes the need for collaboration between manufacturers and regulatory bodies to establish guidelines for the safe use of plastic containers. Additionally, raising awareness among caregivers about the potential risks associated with these particles is crucial.
The study's findings underscore the urgent need for further research into the health impacts of microplastics and nanoplastics present in food. As the understanding of the potential risks grows, it becomes increasingly important to address this issue to safeguard human health and the environment.