Microplastics, plastic particles smaller than 5mm in size, are found everywhere. And it’s no surprise that plastic is found in our bodies too (especially in our feces), which could be the result of eating from plastic containers. But now scientists in a shocking new study have found that amount of PET microplastics in the feces of babies is a whopping ten to twenty times higher than that in adults.
Playing with plastic toys and putting them in the mouth, use of plastic food containers, baby bottles, crawling on polyester mats could be the main reasons behind more plastic in babies than adults. Also, pouring hot water in plastic containers results in unbinding of plastic particles from the container and joins the hot water.
For those who don’t know, PET or polyethylene terephthalate is the plastic mainly used in bottles, polyester textiles, and sizes smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser.
“Babies are exposed to high levels of plastics, something needs to be done,” says Kurunthachalam Kannan, co-author, and professor of environmental medicine and pediatrics at the New York University School of Medicine. “Early life stages are very vulnerable.”
For there scientists collected samples of feces from 6 one-year-old infants (from their diapers using spatulas carefully by avoiding collection which is in direct contact with the diaper) and 10 adults, as well as meconium from 3 newborns babies.
After that, they looked for PET and polycarbonate (PC) and found that every sample had at least one type of microplastic in it. The level of PC microplastics was roughly the same in adults and infants, but infants had 10 to 20 times higher levels of PET microplastics on average.
However, scientists admit that the sample size was too small but also told that this new study adds to the call for more research in this area.
“Our data provide baseline evidence for [microplastic] exposure doses in infants and adults and support the need for further studies with a larger sample size to corroborate and extend our findings,” the study says.
Plastics contain myriad chemicals which have endocrine disruptors that may mess with body hormones and have adverse effects on metabolism, reproductive and neurological health. Growing children are more unsafe from these effects than adults, says co-author Kannan.
According to a study published in 2019, microplastics can pass through cell membranes to infiltrate the body’s circulatory system. Small pieces of plastics may lead to cell death, affecting the immune system.
Deonie Allen from the University of Strathclyde, who was not involved in the study, told Wired “This is a very interesting paper with some very worrying numbers. We need to look at everything a child is exposed to, not only their bottles and toys”.
This research about babies’ poop published journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters is indeed address a worrying problem. And as scientists are still trying to figure out what that all means for babies’ health, there’s not a lot of research on how the microplastics all around us affect human health. There is a need to do deep investment in this phenomenon.