Little Things Matter

Microplastics

Microplastics

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What are Microplastics?

Microplastics are microscopic plastic fragments that flake off of plastic materials over time as they degrade. Microplastics are shed from plastic bottles and plastic bags, car tires, and synthetic textiles (like polyester and nylon). Microplastics or microbeads are also added to some personal care products, like toothpaste and scrubs. Microplastics and the smaller nanoplastics can look like fibers, films, nurdles, or irregular fragments.

No one knows exactly how much microplastic a child takes in. But several studies indicate that a child today starts absorbing microplastics into their body even as a fetus. This gives us cause for concern.” 

                         —Kam Sripada, PhD

                            Neuroscientist

Where are Microplastics found?

Microplastics are everywhere – even in Antarctic snow! We breathe air that contains microplastics from fragments of car tires that turn into dust. Some of our favorite foods and drinks contain microplastics from food packaging, pipes, and equipment used to process food. Plastic infant feeding bottles release millions of microplastics when shaken with warm water (Li et al., 2020). Personal care products, toys, and textiles like clothing, carpets, and bedding, also release microplastics over time and when used.

Children absorb microplastics into their bodies during fetal development. Scientists have also found microplastics inside the human body:

  • Blood (adults)
  • Lungs (adults)
  • Stool (infants)
  • Human placenta after delivery at the hospital
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Health impact of Microplastics on children

Plastics are unavoidable. As microplastics float around in the air, they accumulate toxic chemicals, like PAHs and pesticides. Older plastic toys made with cadmium and lead will leach microplastics with these toxic metals. Microplastics may trigger allergic reactions, cause inflammation if present in large numbers in sensitive areas (like inside the lungs), pass through tissue barriers in the body, and carry hazardous chemicals into the body (Sripada et al., 2022). Chemicals from microplastics, such as BPA and phthalates, have been linked with impaired brain development, preterm birth, and infertility.

Ways to reduce and avoid Microplastics

Governments and producers must take steps to reduce production and availability of plastic products. Here are some steps families can take to reduce their exposure:

  • Support policies that limit single-use plastics
  • Remove your shoes when you get home to reduce dust.
  • Reduce contact of foods with plastic by using glass or metal bottles and containers and transferring foods out of plastic packaging. Sterilization and high-temperature water can significantly increase microplastic release from plastic containers (Li et al., 2020).
  • Feed your baby using glass or metal baby bottles; plastic baby bottles release millions of microplastics under typical use (Li et al., 2020).
  • Avoid baby foods with plastic packaging and storage.
  • Regular wet-cleaning of the home. Dust may contain microplastics.
  • Choose personal care products without microbeads, fragrances, or phthalates.
  • Avoid building materials with plastics, such as PVC.
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Microplastic isn’t just plastic

The worry for children is that microplastic isn’t just plastic. It also contains a variety of toxic chemicals. For example, plastics often contain phthalates and metals for colour or as a biocide, which can be highly toxic for humans. Also, plastics from tires are coated with air pollution and car exhaust chemicals.

Nano- and microplastics are so minuscule that they can travel deep into the lungs and can also cross into the placenta. At the same time, they transport dangerous chemicals with them on their journey. That’s why we believe that nano- and microplastics can be a health risk for children,” said Kam Sripada.

 

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Recent Studies on Microplastics

A new study found that infants fed using plastic bottles may be exposed to up to ~1.5 million microplastic particles every day! The health impact of microparticles are unclear, but prior studies have linked chemical tracers of microplastics, such as BPA and phthalates, with brain-based disorders and infertility.

Plastic chemicals can be avoided in early life by switching to glass baby bottles, and avoiding baby foods with plastic packaging and storage. Scientist Jane Muncke from Food Packaging Forum commented that “infants should also be fed using stainless steel or wooden spoons as opposed to plastic or silicone spoons”.

Author: Dunzhu Li, Nov 2020

Read the full study

Pregnancy, infancy, and childhood are sensitive windows for environmental exposures. Yet the health effects of exposure to nano- and microplastics (NMPs) remain largely uninvestigated or unknown. Although plastic chemicals are a well-established research topic, the impacts of plastic particles are unexplored, especially with regard to early life exposures.

Author: Sripada, et al, 2022

Read the full article…

Other facts You might Find Interesting...

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PBDEs  are toxic chemicals found in common household products and can have significant impact fetal brain development. 

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Microplastics  result from plastic breaking down into fine particles often containing hazardous toxins. They exist throughout the environment.

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Air pollution  is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. We can’t escape it, it’s all around us. 

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PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they never completely break down, leaving them in our soils, our water and our bodies.

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Pesticides can cause short-term adverse health effects as well as chronic adverse effects that can occur months or years after exposure.

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Allergic disorders have risen dramatically over the last 30-40 years as has our understanding of what causes them and the toxic chemicals that have the greatest impact.

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Endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in many common household products and can increase the risk of many diseases.

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Allergic disorders have risen dramatically over the last 30-40 years as has our understanding of what causes them and the toxic chemicals that have the greatest impact.

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Over a billion children live at extremely high risk for climate change events that can lead to disease and death.

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