Does plastic make us sick?

Does plastic make us sick?
March 31, 2019 Dennes Kraan

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH INTO HEALTH RISKS OF MICROPLASTICS

Human health risks of micro plastic

ZonMw, the Dutch organisation for health research and healthcare innovation, will launch fifteen unique research projects into the effects of micro- and nanoplastics on our health. This is the first scientific program in the world on this subject. A total of 1.6 million euros is being invested in the research projects.

Professor Dick Vethaak of Deltares, involved in four of the fifteen research projects, explains: “Microplastics spread easily via water and wind, resulting in a worldwide problem; they are present everywhere in our environment like a kind of grey mist.
We are constantly exposed to small plastic particles via our food, drink, cosmetics or through breathing. What this means for our health, however, cannot yet be properly estimated. There are strong indications of possible health risks, but there are also many uncertainties and knowledge gaps.”

“This is an initial exploratory study in which experts from various disciplines and sectors will work together. In particular, the collaboration between environmental scientists and medical specialists will be strong and unique.”

The projects, which run for one year, address important questions such as:

  • How can microplastics enter our bodies?
  • What role does size, shape and composition play in this?
  • Could plastic in the environment be a source of diseases and infections since certain bacteria seem to thrive on plastic?
  • Can our immune system cope with plastic, or are we more likely to suffer inflammation and infections because of it?
  • How deep does microplastic penetrate into our bodies? Does it affect our brains? Is it harmful to unborn children?

What is Microplastic?

micro plastics in cosmetic products

The microplastic that we have so far been made aware about, come from the fragmentation of larger pieces of plastic waste, synthetic fibres from clothes and of course, those dreaded microbeads found in scrubs and toothpaste, which have fortunately now been banned in the UK, but not before making their negative mark, in the sum of 86 tonnes being released into the environment every year from facial exfoliants alone.

What other microplastics do we need to be aware about?

Most of us think about the dreaded banned microbeads when we talk about plastic in cosmetic products, but there are so many other types of plastic, which are used widely in haircare products, most notably silicones.
Silicones are effectively ‘fluid plastic’ which makes your hair feel smooth and silky (by sealing it with plastic) and are not biodegradable. Ingredients to watch out for on the label are; Dimethicone, Methicone, Phenyl trimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Dimethiconol and Copolyol.

More research into the negative effects on the environment and our health is crucial, so if you are interested to be more informed, I recommend following www.plastichealthcoalition.org

I also found this revealing article on the state of our oceans: https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/plastics.html