In the iconic poster, “War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things,” we make a clear connection to the necessity of safeguarding our youth from imminent crises. Originally created in response to the Vietnam War, the message resonates now, 70 years later, as we confront a new battle: the war on plastics.

Microplastics, minute particles measuring less than 5 millimeters in length (approximately the size of a sesame seed), are well-known for their detrimental impact on oceanic and marine life. However, there is a growing concern about their effects on our children here in New Zealand.

Microplastics have been discovered in everyday items, ranging from baby shampoo to plastic-packaged food, passing through our bodies and ending up in human waste. Research has shown that infants’ feces contain 10 to 20 times more microplastics than adults’, raising significant questions about the impact on our children’s well-being.

Here are nine ways our children encounter plastics in their daily lives:

  1. Wearing Plastic: When we purchase clothes for our children, we unknowingly introduce plastic into their lives. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and acrylic constitute about 69% of global clothing materials, shedding hundreds of thousands to over a million microfibers in a single laundry wash.
  2. Wipes: Baby wipes, used extensively by new parents, contain synthetic and microfiber plastics like polypropylene, rayon, and nylon. New mothers are estimated to use up to 30 baby wipes daily, exposing their children to microplastics thousands of times each year.
  3. Bottles and Sippy Cups: Polypropylene-based baby bottles, favored for their durability and affordability, release microplastics into the liquid when heated, potentially affecting our children’s health.
  4. Dishwasher Pods: Dishwasher pods, a convenient cleaning solution, release microplastics into the environment. These residues can cling to plates, meaning every home-cooked meal could come with a side of plastic.
  5. Glitter/Crafts: Glitter, commonly used in crafts, is made of PET plastics coated with aluminum and synthetic materials. Allowing our children to play with these materials exposes them to plastic dangers.
  6. Tennis Balls: Even tennis balls, with their fuzzy exteriors, contain microplastics, raising safety concerns for children.
  7. Acrylic Paint: Vibrant acrylic paint used in art projects contributes to microplastic pollution and cannot be recycled.
  8. Gum: Chewing gum, a seemingly harmless item, is essentially a form of plastic called polyethylene. When chewing gum, individuals are essentially chewing on plastic.
  9. Toys: Studies have shown that plastic materials used in children’s toys contain substances that can potentially harm children’s health, emphasizing the need for caution.

As parents and caregivers, it is crucial for us to be aware of the hidden dangers of microplastics. Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to exposure, making it essential for us to stay informed about potential sources of microplastics and actively seek better alternatives. Earth Day’s 2024 theme, “Planet vs. Plastics,” underscores the fight we are engaged in for the well-being of both humans and our planet.

Tags: Planet vs. Plastics


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