A worrisome study found that infants are exposed to higher levels of microplastics than adults.
The presence of these microplastics were 10-20x more likely to be found in a baby’s stool than in adults. For such a tiny human that weighs less than 20 pounds, that’s a lot more plastic in their system.
What are microplastics, exactly?
Microplastics are itty bitty plastic particles that are usually run-offs of larger plastic items. When plastic is exposed to environmental factors, like sun exposure, high temperatures, and water, they break down into tiny particles. Microplastics are officially defined as plastic less than 5mm or less than 0.2 inches.
Why does that matter?
Well, it’s no secret that plastic in all forms is a large polluter in that it can take hundreds of years to decompose (yes, even the tiniest forms). For new families, microplastics can be shed from everyday items like baby bottles, teethers, utensils, baby formula containers, high chairs, bouncers, rockers, carriers, toys, and (surprise surprise) baby textiles like sheets and clothes which contain synthetic fabrics such as polyester, elastane, and spandex -- you get the picture. Our families are exposed to a lot of plastic. According to the Guardian, the average person can ingest up to 5 grams of microplastic a week. (For context, 5 grams is about a teaspoon -- would you like a teaspoon of microplastic with that coffee you’re drinking today?)
It’s no surprise that babies put everything in their mouths, which is driving factor behind why they are much more likely to have exposure to microplastics than adults. From crawling on the floor, drooling/shoving their face on that playmat, teething on that set of plastic keys you were gifted, and chewing on sleeves of their own clothes blended with polyester/spandex/elastane or other synthetic fabrics.
Here are 4 things you can do to limit your baby's exposure to microplastics:
Until companies take responsibility for producing baby products without microplastics and microfibers, there isn’t much we as consumers can do other than avoiding those products in the first place. Because plastic is present in almost everything, it’s almost inescapable. The switch to better quality and safer products isn’t the most wallet-friendly option either. Evaluate the items you use that have the biggest impact and make those switches first.
1. Use glass bottles instead of plastic bottles
As new parents, we’re told to boil our plastic bottles to sterilize it for our babies. The process of boiling and heating plastic bottles leaches microplastics into the water that we inevitably dump down the sink. When we heat our breast milk and formula in the bottle, microplastics can be secreted there as well. We know, glass bottles are heavy, but the trade-off is plastic in your baby's system -- you're call!
2. Buy wooden toys instead of plastic toys
Wooden toys are typically coated in linseed oil or beeswax. Look for toys that are coated in nontoxic materials so ensure they’re safe for your baby to gnaw on.
3. Buy pure organic fabric clothing and textiles
Stretchy, snug-fitting clothing is usually blended with spandex or elastane. While this helps with the fit, it is still a synthetic, plastic-based fabric that is sitting on top of your baby’s skin, i.e. largest organ of the body, for extended periods of time -- like all day. Switch to clothes made from pure organic, natural fabrics like organic cotton, bamboo, linen and wool. (Shameless plug -- hi, we’re Cubbiekit and we use 100% GOTS certified organic cotton)
4. Use food-grade silicone feeding tools instead of plastic
Avoid plastic plates, containers, and spoons that can leach off microplastics and contaminate food. Do not microwave or heat plastic dinnerware. Silicone, while not a natural material, won’t run-off when exposed to high temperatures or the elements. Check the label to make sure it's food-grade and doesn't have any plastic materials in it as well.