24/7 Space News
Billions of nanoplastics released when microwaving baby food containers
Kazi Albab Hussain (left) holds his son while removing a plastic container of water from a microwave. Hussain and colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have found that microwaving such containers can release up to billions of nanoscopic particles and millions of microscopic ones.
Billions of nanoplastics released when microwaving baby food containers
by Staff Writers
Lincoln NE (SPX) Jul 21, 2023

The fastest way to heat food and drink might also rank as the fastest route to ingesting massive quantities of minuscule plastic particles, says new research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Experiments have shown that microwaving plastic baby food containers available on the shelves of U.S. stores can release huge numbers of plastic particles - in some cases, more than 2 billion nanoplastics and 4 million microplastics for every square centimeter of container.

Though the health effects of consuming micro- and nanoplastics remain unclear, the Nebraska team further found that three-quarters of cultured embryonic kidney cells had died after two days of being introduced to those same particles. A 2022 report from the World Health Organization recommended limiting exposure to such particles.

"It is really important to know how many micro- and nanoplastics we are taking in," said Kazi Albab Hussain, the study's lead author and a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "When we eat specific foods, we are generally informed or have an idea about their caloric content, sugar levels, other nutrients. I believe it's equally important that we are aware of the number of plastic particles present in our food.

"Just as we understand the impact of calories and nutrients on our health, knowing the extent of plastic particle ingestion is crucial in understanding the potential harm they may cause. Many studies, including ours, are demonstrating that the toxicity of micro- and nanoplastics is highly linked to the level of exposure."

The team embarked on its study in 2021, the same year that Hussain became a father. While prior research had investigated the release of plastic particles from baby bottles, the team realized that no studies had examined the sorts of plastic containers and pouches that Hussain found himself shopping for, and that millions of other parents regularly do, too.

Hussain and his colleagues decided to conduct experiments with two baby food containers made from polypropylene and a reusable pouch made of polyethylene, both plastics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In one experiment, the researchers filled the containers with either deionized water or 3% acetic acid - the latter intended to simulate dairy products, fruits, vegetables and other relatively acidic consumables - then heated them at full power for three minutes in a 1,000-watt microwave. Afterward, they analyzed the liquids for evidence of micro- and nanoplastics: the micro being particles at least 1/1,000th of a millimeter in diameter, the nano any particles smaller.

The actual number of each particle released by the microwaving depended on multiple factors, including the plastic container and the liquid within it. But based on a model that factored in particle release, body weight, and per-capita ingestion of various food and drink, the team estimated that infants drinking products with microwaved water and toddlers consuming microwaved dairy products are taking in the greatest relative concentrations of plastic. Experiments designed to simulate the refrigeration and room-temperature storage of food or drink over a six-month span also suggested that both could lead to the release of micro- and nanoplastics.

"For my baby, I was unable to completely avoid the use of plastic," Hussain said. "But I was able to avoid those (scenarios) which were causing more of the release of micro- and nanoplastics. People also deserve to know those, and they should choose wisely."

With the help of Svetlana Romanova from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the team then cultured and exposed embryonic kidney cells to the actual plastic particles released from the containers - a first, as far as Hussain can tell. Rather than introduce just the number of particles released by one container, the researchers instead exposed the cells to particle concentrations that infants and toddlers might accumulate over days or from multiple sources.

After two days, just 23% of kidney cells exposed to the highest concentrations had managed to survive - a much higher mortality rate than that observed in earlier studies of micro- and nanoplastic toxicity. The team suspects that kidney cells might be more susceptible to the particles than are other cell types examined in prior research. But those earlier studies also tended to examine the effects of larger polypropylene particles, some of them potentially too large to penetrate cells. If so, the Hussain-led study could prove especially sobering: Regardless of its experimental conditions, the Husker team found that polypropylene containers and polyethylene pouches generally release about 1,000 times more nanoplastics than microplastics.

The question of cell infiltration is just one among many that will require answers, Hussain said, before determining the true risks of consuming micro- and nanoplastics. But to the extent that they do pose a health threat - and that plastics remain a go-to for baby food storage - parents would have a vested interest in seeing that the companies manufacturing plastic containers seek out viable alternatives, he said.

"We need to find the polymers which release fewer (particles)," Hussain said. "Probably, researchers will be able to develop plastics that do not release any micro- or nanoplastics - or, if they do, the release would be negligible.

"I am hopeful that a day will come when these products display labels that read 'microplastics-free' or 'nanoplastics-free.'"

The team reported its findings in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Hussain and Romanova authored the study with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Yusong Li, Mathias Schubert, Yongfeng Lu, Lucia Fernandez-Ballester, Bing Wang, Xi Huang, Jesse Kuebler, Dong Zhang and Ilhami Okur. The researchers received support from the National Science Foundation and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute.

Research Report:Assessing the Release of Microplastics and Nanoplastics from Plastic Containers and Reusable Food Pouches: Implications for Human Health

Related Links
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Turning scrap wood into strong, sustainable materials for re-use
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 21, 2023
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, more than 80% of solid waste produced on Department of Defense (DoD) forward operating bases consists of scrap wood, cardboard, and paper. This equates to almost 13 pounds of waste per soldier per day, often disposed of in landfills or buried on-site. DARPA's new Waste Upcycling for Defense (WUD) program aims to research and develop an end-to-end process for turning scrap wood and other cellulosic waste streams such as cardboard and paper into lightweight, ... read more

On space, poll shows most Americans support NASA's role, U.S. presence

Rensselaer researchers using drop module for advanced protein studies on ISS

Virgin Galactic's next spaceflight will include sweepstakes winners

Euclid's large halo around indefinitely small point

AROBS Engineering Takes Lead Role in Space Rider Project Software Verification and Validation

Protecting Space Assets through Innovation: Hyperspace Challenge 2023

SpaceX aborts launch of Starlink satellites

China unveils cutting-edge JF-22 Hypersonic Wind Tunnel facility

Senate expresses 'significant concerns' over NASA's Mars sample-retrieval plan

The clays of Mawrth Vallis

Ancient river is helping Perseverance Mars Rover do its work

CHAPEA Mars Simulation program a test bed for food systems and crop cultivation

Shenzhou XVI crew set to conduct their first EVA

Timeline unveiled for China's advanced manned spacecraft's inaugural flight

Commercial space projects expected to provide more services in China

China's Shenzhou XVI astronauts conduct fluid physics experiments

New Heights for Satellite Communication: Iridium Launches Certus for Aviation

SpaceX launches 54 Starlink satellites, ties record for first-stage returns

CASIC plans new satellite network by 2030

ESA moves ahead with In-Orbit Servicing missions

Billions of nanoplastics released when microwaving baby food containers

Groundbreaking 3D-Printed frictionless gear for space applications

Turning scrap wood into strong, sustainable materials for re-use

US regulator backs off Microsoft-Activision challenge

New study reveals Roman Telescope could find 400 Earth-mass rogue planets

Does this exoplanet have a sibling sharing the same orbit

PSI's David Grinspoon Appointed to New NASA Post

Life on Earth didn't arise as described in textbooks

SwRI team identifies giant swirling waves at the edge of Jupiter's magnetosphere

First ultraviolet data collected by ESA's JUICE mission

Unveiling Jupiter's upper atmosphere

ASU study: Jupiter's moon Europa may have had a slow evolution

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.