A new study has revealed that the most convenient way to heat food could lead to ingesting huge amounts of microplastics. From quickly reheating food to making mug cakes, microwaves have become an essential accompaniment in the kitchen. Now, a new study has revealed that microwaving plastic baby food containers can release massive amounts of nanoplastics and could be hazardous to health
Experiments by researchers from the University of Nebraska have shown that in some cases reheating plastic baby food containers can release more than 2 billion nanoplastics and 4 million microplastics for every square centimeter of container, according to a press statement by the university.
The Nebraska research team further found that three-quarters of cultured embryonic kidney cells had died after two days of being exposed to the toxic particles released by the containers.
Kazi Albab Hussain, the study’s lead author said it’s important to understand how many micro- and nanoplastics people are consuming. “When we eat specific foods, we are generally informed or have an idea about their caloric content, sugar levels, and other nutrients. I believe it’s equally important that we are aware of the number of plastic particles present in our food,” Hussain added in the statement.
The specific number of particles released when microwaving food depends on a myriad of factors including the type of plastic container and the food inside it. According to the research, infants drinking products with microwaved water and toddlers consuming microwaved dairy products ingest the highest number of relative concentrations of plastic. Notably, the study also showed that refrigeration and room-temperature storage of food for about six months could lead to the release of micro- and nanoplastics, according to the statement.
To better understand the effects of reheating baby food, the researchers collaborated with Svetlana Romanova from the University of Nebraska Medical Center to culture and expose embryonic kidney cells to the actual plastic particles released from the containers — a first, according to Hussain. After 72 hours, only 23% of kidney cells exposed to the highest concentrations survived.
In June, a study by the American Institute of Physics revealed that microplastics tend to collect in hot spots in the nasal cavity and oropharynx, or back of the throat and can pose serious health risks. In a 2022 report, the World Health Organisation highlighted that information on exposure to air, drinking water, food and drinks is limited and further research is required.