QUB research to investigate the health effects of plastics

  • The Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast has launched a new research initiative to investigate the health effects on people from nano plastics and microplastics in our environment.

    Researchers at the Intitute for Global Food Security will share in over £500,000 in research funding from the European Commission as part of an international research effort to discover the extent to which microplastics impact human health. These are tiny particles of plastics that have been found in startling levels all throughout our environment, from the oceans and soil to drinking water and food.

    It's estimated that around 5.25 trillion particles of plastic are now cycling through the Earth's oceans, and in recent years the effect of these microplastics on marine life has been the focus of intense study. These particles come from the breakdown of discarded plastic from human activity, including non-recycled home refuse and discarded fishing nets. A surprising number come from small plastic microbeads in beauty products that are washed into the water supply and can be difficult to filter.

    The damaging effect of microplastics to marine environments is being slowly unravelled by researchers, but the effect on human health is less certain. Now Queen's University will be joining the effort to discover just how much of an impact this latest ecological problem can have on our health. The research consortium is being led by Aston University and the funding was granted as part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.

    Professor Chris Elliott from the QUB Institute of Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast explained: "There has been a growing concern about the potential health risks microplastics pose to us, whether through ingesting the harmful bacteria they pick up when coming through wastewater plants, or the effect these nanoplastics could have when coming into contact with human cells."

    Source: Queen's University Belfast

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