Are You Still Eating Plastic?

  • 1st Revision:Isobel Lester
  • 2nd Revision: Lucy Walker
  • 3rd Revision: Ha Nguyen

What are your babies actually drinking when you are feeding them with formula milk?

What a silly question! Of course, they are drinking milk!


A recent study has revealed that babies are consuming millions of microplastic particles and even trillions of nanoplastic particles when they are bottle-fed with formula milk.¹

Plastic baby bottles make up 82% of the world market and one of the main components to produce them  is BPA (Bisphenol A). Since hot water and shaking are required for formula preparation, microplastic is given the opportunity to be released into the milk. Scientists found that an average of 4 million microplastic particles per litre are released during this process. 

At this point, you must have many questions: 

  • What is BPA? 
  • Why are the plastic particles released to the milk?
  • What effects do these plastic particles have on our health?

Plastic Types and BPA

Example uses: beverage bottles, food bottles/jars, combs, rope, carpet, etc.

Example uses: grocery bags, trash bags, milk cartons, detergent bottles, toys, etc. 

Example Uses: cling films, plumbing pipes, credit cards, human and pet toys, teething rings, IV fluid bags, medical tubing, oxygen masks, etc.

Example uses: sandwich/bread bags, plastic/cling wrap, bubble wrap, squeezable bottles (eg. for honey and mustard), etc.

Example Uses: straws, bottle caps, prescription bottles, disposable cups and plates, packaging tape, DVD/CD boxes, etc.

Example uses: disposable coffee cups, egg cartons, plastic food boxes, plastic cutlery, packing foam, etc.

  • Others (O)

Example uses: plastic CDs and DVDs, baby bottles, medical storage containers, eyeglasses, etc. 

From the above diagram, we can see that BPA falls into the last category. BPA stands for Bisphenol A, a chemical discovered in the 1890s and began being used in the 1950s. Adding BPA to other compounds would make plastics stronger and more resilient. 

BPA is most commonly found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. In industry, polycarbonate plastics are often used to produce food and beverages containers, such as the baby bottles mentioned in the research study above.

Epoxy resins are used in the production of metal products, such as food cans and water supply lines.3 Spraying a layer of epoxy resin inside the cans or other metal products can prevent corrosion. 

In addition to these two main categories, BPA can also be found in dental sealants and other consumer goods. Even the receipts we have after everyday purchases contain BPA. 

The Health Effects of BPA

How and why can BPA affect our health?

BPA raises considerable health concerns because it is an endocrine disruptor. In other words, BPA mimics the natural hormones in our body and can thus interfere with the body’s normal hormone function. We can think of this as a potential enemy (BPA) entering a castle (your body) in disguise.

The soldiers of the castle (receptors on cells) think that he (BPA) is one of their own and allow him inside (your body cells). However, since BPA is your enemy, he starts his destruction in your castle (body cells) and it is too late to stop him.

Potential health risks include but are not limited to the following:

  • Effects on reproduction

Research showed that BPA can lead to abnormal egg maturation in women and can potentially cause reduced fertility or infertility.4 BPA exposure is also one of the reasons leading to male infertility and problems with libido. 

  • Diabetes and overweight

There is evidence highlighting that human exposure to BPA may increase the risk of developing Type II diabetes, as BPA could lead to insulin resistance problems.⁵ Studies in humans and animals have discovered that BPA exposure is responsible for weight gain, insulin resistance and high blood sugar in tested animals.

  • Cancer

Since BPA can mimic natural hormones in the human body, it is found that BPA exposure is linked to prostate and breast cancer where hormones play a vital role.4 Some research even found that BPA could affect the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

Possible Solutions

It sounds quite appalling how dangerous BPA can be to our health. Nowadays, almost everything we consume or use is related to plastic. It is understandable to  feel overwhelmed by the great amount and variety of plastics that humans are directly exposed to every day.

So, how can we change this? How can we deal with this plastic pollution problem?

It is hardly possible for us to completely avoid using plastic. Actually, we don’t have to. We need to assess the plastic pollution problem critically, as some research has suggested, exposure to low doses of BPA has no significant impact on health.

Therefore, don’t panic if you are using or have used plastic products or BPA products. If you are concerned, here are some ways that can help you reduce exposure to BPA:

  • Use glass ceramic or stainless-steel food containers/bottles.
  • If you must use plastic food containers, beverages bottles or cling films, make sure to  use them under room temperature, instead of putting them into the microwave with food.
  • Reduce the amount/frequency of canned food you eat.
  • Switch to e-receipts.


  1. Li, D., Shi, Y., Yang, L. et al. Microplastic release from the degradation of polypropylene feeding bottles during infant formula preparation. Nat Food 1, 746–754 (2020).
  2. Mertes, A. “What Are the Different Types of Plastic?” [Online] Illinois: Quality Logo Products, (2020). Available from:
  3. Hardin, T. “Plastics: It’s Not All the Same” [Online] California: Plastic Oceans International (2021) Available from:
  4. Goldman, R.H., Wylie, B.J. Overview of occupational and environmental risks to reproduction in females. [Online] UpToDate (2021). Available from: 
  5. Bao, W., Liu, B., Rong, S., et al. Association between bisphenol A exposure and risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality in US adults. AMA Netw Open. 2020;3(8):e2011620. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.11620
  6. Hwang, S., Lim, Je., Choi, Y. et al. Bisphenol A exposure and type 2 diabetes mellitus risk: a meta-analysis. BMC Endocr Disord 18, 81 (2018)
  7. Medical News Today, 2021 “How does bisphenol A affect health?” [Online] Brighton: Medical News Today. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Adina Zhao

Medical Bioscientist - Imperial College London Medical Bioscience BSc
Modules covered: Integrative Body Systems, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Chemistry of Biological Interactions.
Past projects: Investigation of the influence of amino acid mutations of in-cluster gene lmbU on LmbU protein transcription and translation efficiency in Streptomyces lincolnensis, Investigation of the influence of red fluorescence protein mCherry on the photosynthetic efficiency of Arabidopsis thaliana .

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