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Microplastics detected in human breast milk

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    14th Oct, 2022

Context

Scientists have found microplastics in breast milk, raising concerns over potential health risks for infants.

Concern

  • In general, babies and young children are more vulnerable to chemical and particle exposure.
  • Presence of microplastics in breast milk is of great concern for the extremely vulnerable population of infant.
  • Researchers have also stressed that the advantages of breastfeeding are much greater than the disadvantages caused by the presence of polluting microplastics.

Advice to pregnant women:

  • Avoiding food and drink packaged in plastic, cosmetics and toothpastes containing microplastics, and clothes made of synthetic fabrics.

About

What are microplastics?

  • They are defined as plastics less than five millimeters in diameter—smaller in diameter than the standard pearl used in jewelry. It can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life.
  • There are two categories of microplastics: primary and secondary.
    • Primary Microplastics: They are tiny particles designed for commercial use and microfibers shed from clothing and other textiles. E.g. Microbeads found in personal care products, plastic pellets and plastic fibres.
    • Secondary Microplastics: They are formed from the breakdown of larger plastics such as water bottles.

Chemicals in plastic products:

  • The two most important substances to watch out for in plastics are bisphenol A (BPA), used in a variety of consumer products, and certain ‘phthalates’.
  • BPA has been classified as an endocrine disruptor, which means that it has toxic effect on our ability to reproduce, they may damage fertility or the unborn child.

India-Specific Initiatives:

  • Elimination of Single Use Plastic: In 2019, the Prime Minister of India pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022, with an immediate ban in urban Delhi.
  • Important Rules: Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 state that every local body has to be responsible for setting up infrastructure for segregation, collection, processing, and disposal of plastic waste.
    • Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018 introduced the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
  • Un-Plastic Collective: Un-Plastic Collective (UPC) is a voluntary initiative launched by the UNEP-India, Confederation of Indian Industry and WWF-India.
    • The Collective seeks to minimise externalities of plastics on the ecological and social health of our planet.
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