Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic found in a variety of industries, including biotechnology, cosmetics, agricultural fertilizers, and washing products. The effects are widely unknown, and despite calls for a ban, some of these plastics end up in our bodies.
Now, a worrying piece of research has found that babies have approximately 15 times more microplastics in their bodies than adults.
As part of the research, the team studies the levels of common microplastics – polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polycarbonate (PC) – in adults and babies. They found at least one type in all the samples, but they found much higher levels in the baby samples.
What’s the problem with microplastics?
Scientists used to believe that these microplastics were harmless and would simply pass through the body. But, new research suggests that they may pass into the cell membranes and enter the blood, potentially causing inflammation, cell death, and metabolic disorders.
Microplastics can end up in the body in many ways. For example, in babies, they can be broken down by chewing a dummy or another chew-toy. They can even be created from simple, everyday activities like washing synthetic clothes under a tap or crawling around a carpet.
As well as being unhealthy for humans, microplastics are also bad for the environment. The chemicals often end up in the ocean, which is harmful to fish and marine wildlife. Scientists have even found that the chemicals can affect the fish’s reproductive hormones.
To reduce the harm caused, the researchers suggest buying a filter that stops microplastics from coming off your synthetic clothes. You can also avoid plastic, synthetic products where possible, air-dry your clothes, and limit eating meat and fish.
Another common source of microplastics is tap water. In fact, research shows that they are in 94% of tap water in the US and 72% of tap water in Europe. Filtering your water can be helpful in removing these microplastics.