Photoinitators (PIs) are compounds used in the ink of many types of food packaging. The substances have been shown to migrate into food and, when consumed, show up in human blood serum. Now, for the first time, researchers report they have detected PIs in human breast milk, although they say the levels consumed by breastfeeding infants are unlikely to be a health concern. The report appears in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology Letters.
Photopolymerization is widely considered a “green” technology for the manufacture of light-sensitive materials, such as ultraviolet (UV)-curable inks, coatings and resins. In this process, UV light degrades PIs to free radicals and other active substances that harden, or cure, the ink. However, not all of the PIs are used up during the reaction, and scientists have detected the compounds in food, indoor dust and blood serum. At high enough levels, some PIs have toxic or carcinogenic effects. Runzeng Liu and Scott Mabury wondered whether PIs could pass into human breast milk and, if so, how much of the compounds breastfed infants were likely to ingest.
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