World Environment Day 2023: How microplastics are affecting your child's health | Health - Hindustan Times
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World Environment Day 2023: How microplastics are affecting your child's health

By, New Delhi
Jun 05, 2023 07:16 AM IST

The tiny fragments of plastics originating from your child's plastic toys, bottles or tiffin could be putting them at risk of various health disorders.

Microplastics, the tiny fragments of plastics less than 5 millimetres in size, are becoming a threat to not just our environment and surroundings but also our health. Microplastics originating from plastic bottles, tiffin, containers, chips packets, single-use straws are making its way into our body. These particles are also found in oceans, rivers, soil, and even in the air we breathe. Small children are at an increased risk of ingesting microplastics as they frequently put daily-use objects into their mouth. Microplastics can cause digestive issues, inflammation, and disrupt nutrient absorption. They can also cause developmental delay in children. They can also make their way to developing foetus. It is important to prevent your exposure to microplastics and stay away from any kind of plastic packaging, bottles or lunchbox.

Microplastics tend to invite a plethora of health problems in children. These chemicals are associated with various health problems such as reproductive and obesity, organ problems, and even developmental delays in children.(Freepik)
Microplastics tend to invite a plethora of health problems in children. These chemicals are associated with various health problems such as reproductive and obesity, organ problems, and even developmental delays in children.(Freepik)

"Microplastics tend to invite a plethora of health problems in children. These chemicals are associated with various health problems such as reproductive and obesity, organ problems, and even developmental delays in children. It is a known fact that obesity is the mother of all diseases and has become an epidemic in India. Obesity impacts all the organs of the body. Furthermore, you will also be shocked to know that we ingest microplastics just by eating, drinking, and breathing. According to various studies, mothers can pass microplastics via the placenta to a developing foetus. These chemicals cause serious harm to the health of the children. Thus, parents should be mindful when it comes to their child’s health," says Dr Jagdish Kathwate, Consultant Neonatologist & Pediatrician, Motherhood Hospital Pune.

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Dr Kathwate says it's important to steer clear of plastic packaging and glass bottles must be preferred to plastic ones. It is also important to not give your children plastic toys to play.

"It is the need of the hour to speak to the doctor and clear all the doubts regarding this. Not only this, these chemicals also alter the immune system. It is essential to ensure that parents try to limit the exposure to microplastics found in products and in the environment, and the toxic chemicals linked to them. Do not give your children food products with plastic packaging. Opt for glass milk bottles instead of plastic ones to feed your baby. Do not give plastic toys and objects to children who put them in their mouths. Although, you can allow them to play with wooden objects," adds Dr Kathwate.

How to deal with the threat of microplastics

"All of us have been reading and discussing about the detrimental health effects of microplastics since long. We are all convinced that it is harmful and alarming. Now, the need of the hour is to provide concrete solutions to curb this issue. Our Indian Govt already took the first positive step in 2022 to ban the Single Use Plastics (SUP), which was a major contributor to microplastics. Almost about 30-35% of the microplastics is contributed from wear and tear of different types of plastics. Banning of SUP is the right step, as these plastics cannot be effectively recycled. It is also against our policy of circular economy practices to landfill it or burn or incinerate it. The second solution is to encourage recycling of other plastic products after its utility. This requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders, says Sanjay Mehta, President, Material Recycling Association of India (MRAI – the apex body of recycling trade in India).

Mehta says segregation is important and one must keep it in mind that before discarding the plastic container, it would be a responsible step to try and clean the container as far as possible.

"This will ensure the product to be recycled and ensure circular economy. Logistics is a major challenge, to make the recycling of plastics a viable proposition. Government could support through effective implementation of EPR/Advance recycling fee, so that the recycling of plastics is viable and no indiscriminate dumping happens, which leads to microplastics. Using the plastics for road making is not an effective way of circular economy. It also contributes to almost 7% of microplastics. Hence, the most environmental way of curbing microplastics is to ensure the recyclability of plastics," adds Mehta.

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