Research Shows Baby Poop Contains Microplastics — Here's What Parents Need To Know

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IN THIS ARTICLE

Plastic — it’s everywhere! We see and use plastic every single day of our lives, so much so that global plastic production is estimated to have reached a whopping 368 million metric tons (and we’re still counting) (1). While it’s easy to spot plastic pretty much everywhere, it came as a big shocker when a group of researchers found microplastic in baby poop.

Using plastics is convenient, but there is no denying that it has proven to be a global pollution hazard. As much as plastics help us in numerous ways, the harsh reality is that the harms of using plastic are far more. As we all know well enough, plastic waste is a big cause of environmental pollution and degradation. However, even after this fact is well established, still humankind is struggling to get rid of it.

If we’ve found plastic in baby poop — at a higher concentration than in adults, then perhaps it’s time we questioned our usage of plastic, or at least the way in which it is regulated at home. Here’s more on the research and what you can do about it:

1. Poop, Plastic, And Proven Studies

Poop, Plastic, And Proven Studies

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A group of researchers from the New York University School of Medicine conducted a test on ten adults, six infants, and three newborns. Samples of their (the subjects) stools were taken, and the researchers found two kinds of plastics in the stool samples: polycarbonate (PC) and Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). However, the most interesting part of the study was that they found a higher concentration of microplastics in the stool samples of the infants, as opposed to the stool samples of the adults (2).

So, how did it get to this? The researchers believe that these infants (as well as most other infants) come in contact with a lot of plastic items daily, such as bottles, teething toys, plastic spoons, plastic toys, and plastic bowls. Infants and toddlers are in the habit of chewing or biting onto things that they find interesting, especially when they are teething (3). It could be possible that the microplastics present in these items were digested and then eliminated from the bodies of infants.

This isn’t the only research that proves the presence of microplastics in the system. In a previous study, samples of the placenta were taken, and microplastics were found in these samples as well (4).

More research will have to be conducted to determine if these microplastics remain in the system or get eliminated and if they can potentially be harmful.

2. What Are Microplastics?

What Are Microplastics?

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The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the European Chemicals Agency clearly define microplastics as tiny fragments or particles of pretty much any kind of plastic less than five millimeters in length. Although so small in size, these microplastics can pose a significant health hazard and harm the ecosystem (5).

When microplastics make their way into the human body, it will result in inflammation, inflammatory lesions, neurotoxicity, and because of their carcinogenic properties, microplastics can cause cancer, too (6).

3. What You Can Do To Protect Your Child From Microplastics

What You Can Do To Protect Your Child From Microplastics

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You can’t completely eliminate plastics. Yes, you can minimize its use, but completely doing away with plastic is close to impossible and also highly inconvenient. What you can do, though, is reduce the usage of plastic and when you do use it, do so wisely. Here are a few ways in which you can tackle this growing concern:

  1. You could transition to using glass containers instead of plastic containers to store food items.
  1. Avoid storing water in plastic containers. Instead, opt for metal or clay water containers.
  1. When you heat food in a microwave, try to use microwave-friendly glass bowls or plates instead of microwave-friendly plastics.
  1. Instead of plastic water bottles, buy copper water bottles. It is best to carry your own water bottles instead of buying water that is packed in plastic.
  1. Change your usual bedding (especially in your child’s crib) to hundred percent cotton or wool.
  1. Avoid baby foam products as much as you can.
  1. Use fragrance-free (and chemical-free) baby products as most of these fragrances contain Phthalates (which are used in making plastics).
  1. Make sure you buy organic food as much as possible.
  1. When buying feeding bottles and pacifiers, look for those that are made from hospital-grade silicone.

4. Why Babies Are More Vulnerable Than Adults

Why Babies Are More Vulnerable Than Adults

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The research we mentioned above clearly states that infants had a higher concentration of microplastics in their system than adults. In most cases, it is a known fact that infants are a lot more vulnerable than adults, and here is why:

  1. Babies have a faster metabolism than adults, which means that whatever they consume gets into their bloodstream and system much faster.
  1.  Adults have what is known as the “blood-brain barrier” that protects the brain from toxins and harmful chemicals that circulate in the body. Unfortunately, this barrier isn’t developed until a child turns six months old.
  1.  Children spend a reasonable amount of time on the ground, where a lot of dust and microplastics tend to settle. Considering their proximity to the ground, it’s easy for microplastics to get into their system via respiration or ingestion.
  1. Many of the toys and utensils that babies use are usually made of plastics. As children start growing teeth, they also develop the tendency to chew whatever they can have in their mouths. Chances on small bits entering their mouths are always there.

You can’t completely do away with plastics, but you can significantly regulate their use. Also, the reduction of plastic is the need of the hour — there is a global cry for the mindful use of plastic, so it’s only right to make efforts in this direction. In doing so, you won’t just keep your baby safe; you will also be contributing to a plastic-free world. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below!

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Annual production of plastics worldwide from 1950 to 2020
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/282732/global-production-of-plastics-since-1950/
  2. Occurrence of Polyethylene Terephthalate and Polycarbonate Microplastics in Infant and Adult Feces
    https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.estlett.1c00559
  3. Symptoms associated with infant teething: a prospective study
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10742315/
  4. Plasticenta: First evidence of microplastics in human placenta
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33395930/
  5. What are microplastics?
    https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html
  6. A Detailed Review Study on Potential Effects of Microplastics and Additives of Concern on Human Health
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7068600/
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