Plastic is everywhere. It is incredibly useful and has transformed our lives, but poses a serious threat to human health.
The Minderoo Foundation Plastic and Human Health program has assembled authoritative and credible evidence and is collaborating with experts around the world in the shared aim to investigate and highlight the negative impacts of plastic on our health.
We are revealing the impacts of plastics on human health by harnessing research literature and supporting clinical research infrastructure to inform government policy and the redesign of plastics by the plastics industry.
There’s mounting evidence and growing concern about the impact of some plastic chemicals and plastic particles on human health.
Scientists have established links between everyday exposure to chemical additives that leach from plastics and reproductive health issues, brain health, obesity, diabetes and some types of cancer. The effects are evident in babies, children, and adults – young and old.
Microplastics – tiny particles of plastic under 5mm in length – are known to be in our air, soil, rivers, oceans, plants and animals. They are from degraded plastic products, textiles, tyre abrasion, industry, agriculture and general waste. Microplastics are also intentionally added to products, for example cosmetics.
We know that microplastics get into our gut and lungs, but we don’t yet know how far they penetrate our blood and organs nor what impacts they have on human health. Concerningly, neither do we know how far the smaller virus-sized nanoparticles penetrate our bodies because we do not have suitable techniques to measure them. What we do know is that plastic is devastating our oceans, freshwater and land ecosystems that are essential for all life.
We are harnessing existing evidence and contributing new evidence about the impact of plastics on human health; and collaborating with like-minded researchers around the world to improve global understanding.
We are also building infrastructure to improve the capacity of scientists to do this critical work at scale.
And we are using this evidence to influence governments to take urgent action in three ways:
We are united with Minderoo Foundation’s No Plastic Waste team to inform businesses, governments and consumers to end plastic pollution. We encourage innovations that create alternatives to plastic or fundamentally re-design it to contain safe additives and degrade into natural products.
Find out which companies are making and financing plastic – in Minderoo Foundation’s Plastic Waste Makers Index and lend your support for corporate responsibility.
Contact your government representative to ensure they take action to stop the import, production and sale of harmful plastic chemicals and particles and to protect natural systems from plastic pollution.
Encourage your shops and cafes to reduce unnecessary plastic packaging and to stock plastic-free alternatives.
See what you can start doing today to reduce your exposure and contribute to a healthier world: