If you’ve been following MADE SAFE for some time, you have heard us talk about the problem of plastic pollution and, in particular, the problem of microplastics (MPs). MPs are pervasive in the environment—ending up in all sorts of places thanks to their small size. MPs have been found in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and even the dust in our homes.
Research is now shedding light on yet another place that microplastics have been found: poop. Yes, poop. What’s more, a recent study detected MPs in the feces of both adults and babies. According to this study, the newborn meconium tested was also filled with plastic particles. Concerningly, the study found that babies had over 10 times the amount of plastic particles in their poop compared to adults. While the full effects of microplastics remain largely unknown, what we do know from available animal studies is that they seem to carry adverse health effects.
LOOMING QUESTIONS – ZERO REGULATION
This study makes it clear that humans are ingesting plastic, but we still don’t know exactly where it is coming from, what the specific adverse health effects are in humans, or how to ameliorate the problem. Other questions loom, such as why do infants have so much more microplastic in their poop than adults? It is probable that they are exposed from bottles, food ware, toys, and house dust, but more research is needed to identify the sources in detail. We know enough, though, to use caution and eliminate the use of plastics wherever possible, with one of the study’s authors calling for children’s products to be made without plastic.
The study shines a light on the fact that we do not clearly know the potential harm from these materials, yet governments around the globe allow plastics in the marketplace with zero regulation, monitoring, or plans for clean-up. What we do know, though, is that aquatic life die from ingesting plastic. If aquatic animals die from ingesting plastic, what happens when humans ingest it in daily microdoses? Uncovering the answer is imperative. In the meantime, it may be wise to practice the precautionary principle and avoid plastic until more is known.
Evangelos Danopoulos, lead researcher on another study examining the effects of MPs warns in a recent article that “We should be concerned. Right now, there isn’t really a way to protect ourselves.” He explains that the harmful effects their research uncovered included “cell death and allergic reactions” with their research being “the first to show this happens at levels relevant to human exposure.”
MORE RESEARCH IS NECESSARY
One of the authors, Dr. Leo Trasande MPP, says: “The study’s findings are as disturbing as they are not surprising. The safe and simple steps are the same as I advise in general – avoiding use of plastic when feasible, particularly with recycling numbers 3, 6 and 7, and avoiding machine dishwashing and microwaving plastic. The health effects of the molecules that are directly absorbed are much better understood than the microplastics, and we need to focus on a method to easily measure exposure to MPs in people and examine effects.”
Creating awareness is an important step toward generating interest in this necessary research. Share this information with others in your community, cut back on the usage of plastic in your own life, and support policies that call for a limiting of plastics.
Amy Ziff is the Founder and Executive Director of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Nontoxic Certified. MADE SAFE® is a program of Nontoxic Certified.
A healthy living educator with a genetic predisposition to toxicity, Amy is also mom to three young kids who share the same trait. Determined to make the world less toxic, Amy reached millions of parents and caregivers with her “buy better” advocacy campaigns. She blogs about the chemical world we live in on Amy Ziff’s NoTox Life, and prior to founding MADE SAFE, taught classes on living a nontoxic life and co-founded the Veritey Shop, a site comprised of safe, nontoxic products. Amy is changing the world for the healthier one product at a time, one person at a time, one home at a time.
Amy has a Masters in Journalism and Communications and has been a successful internet entrepreneur. She was on the founding team of Site59 where she pioneered the first luxury business line for travel on the web. When Site59 was acquired by Travelocity, she ran a national sales team and then founded an award-winning media program, blog, and travel seal that garnered millions of dollars of “earned media” annually, and also founded the company’s award-winning cause marketing program. Amy went on to cofound and become creative director of Jetsetter, the first online flash-sale for high-end travel.