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Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Alarming Level of Plastic in Children's Bodies, German Study Shows

Health + Wellness
picture-alliance / Newscom / R. Ben Ari

By Wesley Rahn

Plastic byproducts were found in 97 percent of blood and urine samples from 2,500 children tested between 2014 and 2017, according to a study by the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute.


The German weekly magazine Der Spiegel published the findings, which were part of a federal study focused on "human biomonitoring" of 3 to 17-year-olds. Traces from 11 out of 15 plastic ingredients were found in the test samples.

"Our study clearly shows that plastic ingredients, which are rising in production, are also showing up more and more in the body," Marike Kolossa-Gehring, one of the study's authors, told the magazine.

Toxic Clothes and Cookware? 

Plastic from cleaning products, waterproof clothing, food packaging and cooking utensils frequently comes into direct contact with the body.

Although some of the chemicals studied pose no known health risk, researchers said that they were especially concerned about high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that were found in the study. PFOA is frequently used in non-stick cookware and in waterproof clothing.

According to the German Environment Ministry, the chemical is dangerous for the reproductive system and is toxic to the liver. The EU will ban the substance in 2020.

Plastic byproducts are also blamed for disrupting hormone function, which could lead to obesity, reproductive disorders, cancer and development delays in children.

Youngest Children Most Vulnerable

According to the research, younger children were reported to be the most affected by plastic ingestion. The study also showed children from poorer families had more plastic residue in their bodies than children from higher-income families, according to German public broadcaster ARD.

"It is very concerning that the youngest children, as the most sensitive group, are also the most affected," Kolossa-Gehring said.

"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," Green Party environmental health expert Bettina Hoffmann told Der Spiegel.

According to the magazine, the study has not yet been published, and the results were made available by the government upon request by a Green Party inquiry into the effects of chemicals on public health.

Hoffmann said that there has not been enough research on how plastic chemicals affect the body, and how they are ingested.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Deutsche Welle.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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