A recent study found that one-year-old babies have up to ten times more microplastics in their bodies than adults - even some newborns' stools contained microplastics. Let’s break down how you might be feeding your baby plastic, and how to prevent it.
Microplastics are tiny plastic particles smaller than 5 mm in size. There are two types of microplastics: primary microplastics are tiny, such as microbeads found in personal care items. Secondary microplastic, on the other hand, is initially a larger plastic product, such as a plastic bag that degrades over time into microplastic particles.
Babies love to put practically everything in their mouths, including the toys we buy them. Unfortunately, as consumers, we rely too much on manufacturers to ensure that their products are perfectly safe - which they are not, especially if they are made of plastic. In the study conducted on babies' exposure to microplastics, plastic toys were one of the main culprits.
Researchers at Trinity College Dublin tested 10 different types of plastic baby bottles, representing two-thirds of all bottles on the market. They found that all the bottles tested in the laboratory produced between 1.3 million and 16.2 million plastic particles per liter of liquid. This suggests that an average newborn ingests 1.6 million microplastic particles per day, when taking into account infant formula consumption and breastfeeding around the world. In North America, that number is 2.3 million particles per day. In Europe, it is 2.6 million, and in France, the Netherlands and Belgium, it can be as high as 4 million. If you use plastic bottles, you are literally feeding your baby plastic.
If your household uses a lot of plastic, the baby is also exposed to it. Phthalates (a type of chemical most prominent in plastic) are especially common in consumer products. They can be found in many items, including clothing, furniture and shower curtains, baby toys, shampoo, soap, hairspray and nail polish. When these items are exposed to heat and moisture, they break down easily and mix with household dust that settles everywhere. That's why it's so important to switch to a plastic-free life.
Anna Lewis, a doctoral student at Duke University, points out that microplastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals, meaning they affect development and reproduction.
Endocrine disruptors like BPA have also been linked to metabolic and cardiovascular problems. These same substances have also been linked to hormone tumors, infertility, learning disabilities, and possibly autism spectrum disorders.
One study found that children of mothers with the highest levels of phthalates in their urine during the second trimester were almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children of mothers who had much lower levels.