Planet vs. Plastics
Plastic is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things
October 2, 2023
Every first Monday in October, we observe National Child Health Day, reminding us to prioritize our children’s well-being. In the iconic poster, “War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things,” we draw the clear connection to the need to protect our youth for looming crises. At the time the poster was made in response to the Vietnam War. Now, 70 years later we’re engaged in another battle: the war on plastics.
Microplastics, tiny particles measuring less than 5 millimeters in length (about the size of a sesame seed), are notorious for their harm to oceanic and marine life. But there’s a growing concern about their impact on our children.
Microplastics have been detected in everyday items, from baby shampoo to plastic-packaged food, which then pass through our bodies and are found in human waste. A study revealed that 10 to 20 times more microplastics are found in infants’ feces than adults’, raising serious questions about their effects on our children’s well-being.
Here are 9 ways our children are exposed to plastics in their daily lives:
- Wearing Plastic
When we buy clothes for our kids, we’re unknowingly bringing plastic into their lives. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, acrylic make up about 69% of global clothing materials, shedding as many as hundreds of thousands to over a million microfibers in a single wash load of laundry.
These wipes are made of nonwoven fabrics, often which contain synthetic and microfiber plastics like polypropylene, rayon, and nylon. New moms are estimated to use up to 30 baby wipes daily and can use an upwards amount of 10,000 wipes yearly. That’s 10,000 different times new moms are exposing their children to microplastics.
- Bottles and Sippy cups
Polypropylene-based baby bottles, known for their durability and affordability, are a common choice among parents. However, recent studies reveal a concerning issue. When these bottles are heated to warm milk, they release microplastics into the liquid, potentially affecting our children’s health.
- Dishwasher pods
When it comes to cleaning our little ones’ dishes, dishwashers often seem like a lifesaver. But what if we told you that this convenience comes with an unintended consequence – the release of microplastics into our environment? These microplastic residues can stick to your plate like glue meaning every home cooked meal could potentially come with a side of plastic.
Glitter is made up of common PET plastics including polypropylene, a chemical found in most plastics. Not only that, these plastics are also coated with aluminum and synthetic materials to make it reflective. Would you want your children playing with that?
- Tennis balls
Even tennis balls, with their fuzzy exteriors, contain microplastics, raising questions about their safety for children .
- Acrylic paint
The vibrant paint used in art projects is a thermosetting plastic that can’t be recycled, contributing to the problem of microplastic pollution.
Plastic pollution is a global concern, and while we often think about plastic bottles, bags, and packaging as culprits, there’s a hidden plastic problem that’s right under our noses – chewing gum. Most chewing gum is, in essence, a clever disguise for a plastic called polyethylene. Polyethylene is a common plastic used in various applications, including the production of plastic bottles. When you pop a piece of gum into your mouth, you’re essentially chewing on a piece of plastic.
A study revealed that out of 419 chemicals found in hard, soft and foam plastic materials used in children toys, 126 substances can potentially harm children’s health either via cancer or non-cancer effects.
It’s imperative for us as parents and caregivers to be vigilant about the hidden dangers of microplastics. Babies and children are especially vulnerable to exposure, and our awareness and actions can make a significant difference in their well-being. By staying informed about potential sources of microplastics and actively seeking better alternatives, we can protect our children from unnecessary harm. Earth Day’s 2024 theme, Planet vs. Plastics, embodies the fight we are in for human and planetary health.