Researchers at the Department of Pediatrics and Department of Environmental Medicine at New York University’s School of Medicine found worrying results after their investigation, finding that babies have 15 times more microplastics in their bodies than adults.
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic which are less than 5mm in size, about the thickness of a two Euro coin. Microplastics are currently used in many industries, including cosmetics, biotechnology, washing products and drug capsules.
However, microplastics can also be created when larger plastic objects are broken down. Unfortunately, that can be from something as simple as washing synthetic clothes under a tap.
Another way microplastics can be broken down is through chewing on a dummy or pacifier. The researchers believe that the high levels of microplastics babies are consuming is through chew-toys like dummies and from crawling around on carpets that contain microplastics.
The team looked for two common kinds of microplastics, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polycarbonate (PC). To find PET and PC, they examined the levels of microplastics in the samples of faeces from 10 adults and six babies in New York State, US. In all the samples they found at least one type of microplastic. When comparing the baby samples to the adults, the researchers found at least 10 times as much microplastics.
Unfortunately, the exact effects of microplastics on human health are still unknown. But there is increasing concern that they can be very damaging when ingested. Scientists previously believed microplastics would pass harmlessly through the gastrointestinal tract. However, recent research suggests the smallest pieces are able to cross cell membranes and enter our circulation. Research on microplastics in lab animals has caused cell death, inflammation and metabolic disorders.