• By The Financial District

Babies Have 15 Times More Microplastics Than Adults

Worrying research finds that babies have 15 times more microplastics in their bodies than adults, Jonny Walfisz reported for Euronews.

Photo Insert: While the scientific evidence is worrying, what exactly the effects of microplastics are on human health has yet to be determined.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic less than five mm in size, about the thickness of a two Euro coin. They are used in a variety of industries, including cosmetics, biotechnology, washing products, and drug capsules. But they can also be created when plastic objects are broken down. 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. The researchers believe that the way babies are consuming such high levels of microplastics 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 feces from 10 adults and six babies in New York State, US. In all the samples they found at least one type of microplastic.

Meaning it’s very likely there are some microplastics in grownups too. But when comparing the baby samples to the adults, the researchers found at least 10 times as much. Unfortunately, the jury is still out as to what exactly the effects of microplastics are on human health.

All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

But there is increasing concern that they can be very damaging when ingested. The smallest pieces are able to cross cell membranes and enter our circulation. Scientists used to believe microplastics would pass harmlessly through the gastrointestinal tract.

Recent research suggests, though, that the smallest pieces are able to cross cell membranes and enter our circulation. This is concerning because research on microplastics in lab animals has caused cell death, inflammation, and metabolic disorders.

Science & technology: Scientist using a microscope in laboratory in the financial district.

Last year, scientists from Duke University showed that fish were being harmed by chemicals from microplastics in the ocean. Many of the microplastics broken off from washing synthetic clothes will end up in the ocean. For a while, it was also thought that microplastics eaten by fish would be digested without much harm.

But Duke University's research contradicted that. They found the chemicals coating the microplastics were affecting the fish’s reproductive hormones. As filterers of the sea, mussels may come to the rescue by removing microplastics from the oceans.

Health & lifestyle: Woman running and exercising over a bridge near the financial district.

It's not just mussels doing the work, however. Researchers found that a cluster of 300 mussels could filter 250,000 pieces of microplastics an hour. Computer modeling suggests mussels could one day be responsible for filtering 25 percent of microplastics in the water that surrounds them.

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