3 Common Baby Items That Contain Microplastics
As a parent I always try to do what I feel is best for my daughter. As a human I also want to do what is best for the environment. Luckily those two things often overlap. One thing our family tries to avoid as much as possible is plastic. This is not as easy as it sounds though. Of course we use reusable water bottles and coffee cups, buy unpackaged fruits and vegetables and purchase used toys as much as we can. But plastic, especially in the form of microplastic, is everywhere. Maybe you’ve heard of the beads in exfoliating face washes contaminating oceans, but did you know that paper coffee cups are lined with polyethylene which breaks down into microplastic or that the fuzzy outer layers of tennis balls are made from the same plastic used to make plastic milk bottles? One study out of Australia proposes that humans consume nearly 5 grams of micro-plastic a week due to the packaging of our food alone.
So, why are microplastics so bad? The main reason is that we are ingesting them. They get into the air and into the water supply and are nearly impossible to remove. Microplastics can’t be fished out of the ocean like larger plastic items. Instead they end up being consumed by animals that eventually end up in the human food chain. There is no solid evidence on the effects of microplastics on humans but scientists do agree this is only because there has not been enough research yet. I, for one, have decided to play it safe while waiting for the results to come in and will continue to do my part in limiting plastic pollution.
Here are three common baby items that contain microplastics and contribute to microplastic pollution.
All synthetic clothing, made with fabrics like polyester, rayon or spandex, contains microplastics. Anything you buy that is a conventional (or organic) cotton blend, containing synthetic fabrics, also contains microplastics. Synthetic clothing is one of the biggest culprits of microplastic pollution. Every time you wash an item microplastics get rinsed away with the water. In the dryer micro plastics are pumped out through the vent. You can avoid plastics by buying clothes made with all natural fabrics, for example 100% cotton, but if they’re not organic fabrics then you're dealing with an industry that wastes and pollutes water as well as soil. And that’s not to mention the chemicals and energy used in processing most cotton.
Now it might seem like your only option is to join a nudist community, hopefully somewhere warm, but don’t worry. I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t have a solution. GOTS certified 100% organic cotton is made without GMO seeds or toxic chemicals like pesticides. It also uses 88% less water and 62% less energy than regular cotton. This is why Tøy only produces clothes with pure, 100% organic cotton fabric and you can read more about it here. Because Tøy makes quality organic baby clothes that are also timeless and gender-neutral, they are perfect to pass down to younger siblings and other new friends.
Baby wipes are another product many people don’t realize contain microplastics. Again, more studies need to be done on the effects of microplastics on humans, but I think we can assume it won’t be good news. And I certainly do not want to wipe my child’s diaper area with something containing microplastics. But the effects of wet wipes don't end at the safety of your child. Because of the microplastics they can not be composted or recycled. And wet wipes being flushed (even the ones labeled “flushable”) wreak havoc on the pipes in your home and your local sewer treatment facility. And while I’m writing specifically about baby products I should mention that this goes for any type of wet wipe; facial, cleaning, make up removing, etc.
One option for waste free, sustainable baby wipes is to cut up old clothes that can’t be repaired for reusable wipes. Keep clothing scraps in a mason jar with a homemade wipe solution and pull out as needed. You can find many different DIY recipes online for wipe solutions but a simple one is just 1/2 cup baby oil, 1/2 cup baby wash and 2 cups water. Rinse and soak used wipes until you’re ready to do laundry.
For those of you who don’t have laundry on site, or are not into the idea of a reusable wipe, my second recommendation is to check out Noleo. Noleo is a natural organic wipe alternative with smaller, organic cotton pads that contain zero chemicals and zero plastic. The wipes are disposable but about a quarter of the size of a typical wipe which cuts down on waste. Noleo also makes a safe, five ingredients only, wipe solution that also acts as a moisturizer and diaper cream to use with the pads.
You don’t have to conduct years of research to know that the majority of baby bottles are made of plastic. The good news is that they are at least not single use and, like clothes, can be passed down to a new family. However, a recent study showed that when milk is heated up in a plastic bottle microplastics are released into the milk. This is enough reason for me to avoid those,
Almost every single glass and stainless steel bottle available comes with a plastic lid. I admit this isn’t the most terrible thing in the world, especially compared to wipes and microplastics escaping with every load of laundry. But, if there is a better option, why not go for it? Pura stainless steel bottles are 100% plastic free. Not only that, with the interchangeable tops you can use the same bottle for years. Your bottle becomes a sippy cup and then a big kid water bottle. And the designs are cute but simple enough that an older kid won’t be embarrassed using it.
There is a lot of information out there and I’m not writing this to make anyone feel bad or panic. I do, however, want to make people aware of the different options they have. Many parents get wet wipes by default because they haven’t realized there are other options. And most people don’t know that washing a load of laundry sends micro plastics into the water supply. So, my goal is to let as many people know these things as possible so they can make an educated decision for their family.
Traci Vaughn lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter. When she’s not overseeing at home preschool activities she works as a social media manager and blog writer. You can learn more at tracijoysocial.com and follow Traci at @tracijoysocial on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter