Plastic pollution is everywhere: in our oceans, in our waterways, even in the fish that we eat. But according to a new study, a startling 97% of children were found to have plastic byproducts inside their bodies.
Published in the German magazine Der Spiegel over the weekend, researchers revealed that of the over 2,500 children whose blood and urine samples were tested between 2014 and 2017, 97% tested positive for plastic byproducts.
The study was conducted by scientists at the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute and was part of a larger federal study on “human biomonitoring” of children ages 3 to 17 years old.
“Our study clearly shows that plastic ingredients, which are rising in production, are also showing up more and more in the body. It is really worrying that the youngest children are most affected as the most sensitive group,” said Marike Kolossa-Gehring, one of the study’s authors.
Of the 15 plastics that scientists were looking for, 11 were found present in the children’s test samples. One of the most dangerous, and the one that researchers were particularly concerned with, was perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is frequently used in non-stick cookware and waterproof clothing. PFOA can be dangerous for the reproductive system and the liver. It is set to be banned in the EU in 2020.
Results of the study are alarming. Younger children were the most affected by plastic byproducts, with proportions of plastic in their system much higher. Children from poorer families were more likely to have plastic residue in their bodies than children from higher-income families.
“It is very concerning that the youngest children, as the most sensitive group, are also the most affected,” said Kolossa-Gehring.
High levels of chemicals that have been increasingly used as substitutes for previously banned chemicals were also found. Unfortunately, because there is not enough research on how plastic chemicals affect the body, it is dangerous to continue to allow chemicals with similar, questionable, properties to replace known dangerous ones until better research can be done, says Green Party environmental health expert Bettina Hoffmann
“It can’t be that every fourth child between three and five years old is so heavily burdened with chemicals that long-term damage cannot safely be ruled out,” said Hoffmann.