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Investigating the impact of microplastic inhalation and ingestion in a healthy lungs and pre-existing lungs disease

Project Member(s): Paudel, K., Dua, K., Ebrahimi Warkiani, M., Faiz, A., Idrees, S., Rehman, S., Evans, A., Hansbro, P.

Funding or Partner Organisation: Maridulu Budyari Gumal - The Sydney Partnership for Health, Education, Research and Enterprise (SPHERE) (SPHERE - Triple I Seed Funding)
Maridulu Budyari Gumal - The Sydney Partnership for Health, Education, Research and Enterprise (SPHERE) (SPHERE - Triple I Seed Funding)

Start year: 2023

Summary: Plastic pollution has emerged as a global environmental and health concern, including in Australia, with increasing apprehension about the health impacts of microplastics in the environment (Earth Science Revs 2002;203:103118). Studies have shown that microplastics enter the environment at various stages of the plastic product life cycle, from production to waste management, posing risks to the food chain and human health (Environ Sci Technol 2019;53(13):7177). Australians, on average, use 130 kg of disposable plastic per person each year, with a meager 9% recycling rate. Alarmingly, up to 130,000 tonnes of plastic finds its way into Australian waterways and oceans annually (WWF Australia). While most research has focused on the marine environment, attention is now shifting towards the impact of microplastics on human health. As microplastics are tiny and freely circulate in the environment, they can reach deep inside the lungs through inhalation, causing inflammatory and immune responses that damage the respiratory system and other organs (PNAS 021;118(16):e2020719118). Patients with lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are particularly vulnerable to microplastic exposure (Front Toxicol. 2022; 4: 958414). Even healthy individuals are not spared from its adverse effects, as microplastics have been detected in various foods and drinking water, correlating with the progression of inflammatory bowel diseases (Environ Sci Technol 2022 Jan 4;56(1):414-421) and affecting the nasal and intestinal microbiota (Front Public Health 2022;10:1005535). Occupational exposure to airborne microplastics among synthetic mill workers is associated with respiratory illnesses. Despite knowledge of the health risks posed by plastics, the extent of damage caused by microplastics at the molecular and cellular levels remains largely unknown.

FOR Codes: Environmental education and awareness, Respiratory diseases