- Scientists analyze microplastics in feces of infants and adults
- In all samples microplastic fibers were found hidden in the stool.
- Children had 10-fold higher levels of polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
- Researchers believe this may be due to exposure to baby products
A new study warns that the stools of infants contain 10 times more microplastics than those of adults.
Researchers at New York University found higher levels of a type of microplastic, known as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), when comparing stools from adults and children.
They believe that higher levels in babies may be due to exposure to baby products such as dummies to crawling on carpets that contain chemicals.
Worryingly, researchers are still unclear about the long-term health effects that exposure to microplastics can have.
However, previous research has linked microplastic exposure with cell death, inflammation and metabolic disorders.
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Babies have 10 times more microplastic in their stool than adults, a new study warns (stock image)
Where do microplastics come from?
Microplastics come from a variety of sources, including large plastic debris that breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.
In addition, microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very small pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added to health and beauty products as exfoliants, such as some cleansers and toothpastes.
These tiny particles easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in the ocean and Great Lakes, posing a potential threat to aquatic life.
Microplastic debris can be less than five millimeters in size and are found in deep-sea indoor dust, food and even bottled water.
It was believed that they pass through our bodies harmlessly, but recent studies have confirmed that the tiniest fibers can cross cell membranes and enter the body’s circulation.
The study, conducted at New York University School of Medicine, was published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters of the American Chemical Society.
Professor Kurunthachalam Kannan, who led the study, said: ‘Although average levels of fecal PC microplastics were similar between adults and infants, infant feces contained an average of 10 times higher PET concentrations than adults.
‘The high concentration of microplastics in the feces of one-year-old infants can be attributed to the widespread use of plastic products/objects such as baby feeding bottles, sippy cups, spoons and bowls such as utensils, plastic teethers and toys. could. , during that development phase.
‘One-year-olds are often known to mouth plastic products and clothes.
‘In addition, studies have shown that infant formula prepared in bottles can release millions of microplastics and that many processed baby foods are packaged in plastic containers creating another source of exposure in one-year-old infants.
‘In addition, textiles are a source of PET MPs. Babies often chew and suck on clothes, and therefore, exposure of this age group to MPs present in the textile sector is of greater concern.
‘Carpets made of PET and PP can be another source of MP exposure, as infants often crawl on carpeted surfaces.’
Professor Kannan and his colleagues began exploring the consequences of microplastics in humans by measuring levels of infant and adult feces.
Researchers believe high levels in infants may be down to the risk of baby products ranging from dummies to crawling on carpets that contain chemicals (stock image)
They were looking for two common microplastics – polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polycarbonate (PC).
Researchers used mass spectrometry to determine the concentrations of two microplastics in 10 adult samples of six infants and 10 adult stools, including three samples of the first stool made by newborns.
In all samples microplastic fibers were found hidden in the stool. PC levels were almost the same in adults and infants but PET levels were 10-fold higher in infants.
Professor Kannan cautioned because the study was too small and called for more research to be done.
He continued: ‘We found that the concentration of PET in infant feces was significantly higher than in adult feces.
‘Our data provide baseline evidence for MP exposure dosing in infants and adults and support the need for further studies with a larger sample size to confirm and expand our findings.’
What further research is needed to assess the prevalence and impact of microplastics?
The World Health Organization’s 2019 report ‘Microplastics in Drinking Water’ has outlined several areas for future research that could shed light on how far the problem of microplastic pollution can spread, impacting human health. and what can be done to prevent these particles from entering. our water supply.
How widespread are microplastics?
The following research will clarify the occurrence of microplastics in drinking water and freshwater sources:
- More data on the occurrence of microplastics in drinking water are needed to adequately assess human exposure to drinking water.
- Occurrence studies of microplastics should use quality-assured methods to determine the number, size, shape and composition of particles detected. They must identify whether the microplastics are coming from freshwater environments or from the abstraction, treatment, distribution or bottling of drinking water. Initially, this research should focus on drinking water, which is thought to be most at risk of particulate contamination.
- The study of drinking water would be usefully complemented by improved data on freshwater that enables the quantification of freshwater inputs and the identification of major sources. This may require the development of reliable methods to track the source and identify the sources.
- Sampling and analysis require a set of standard methods…