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Plastic particles can affect our immune system
Latest research by Professor Dr. Raymond Pieters from Utrecht University suggests that airborne microplastics could seriously harm human immune health. The leading scientist warns about the impact of microplastic particles in the air on human health during the Plastic Health Summit on the 21st of October in Amsterdam.
Microplastics and the immune system
Inhaled microplastic particles can be absorbed into the lung tissue. As a response, important cells in the immune system, so called dendritic cells, will engulf the plastic particles. Dendritic cells have the machinery to break down bacteria, but they lack the tools to break down plastic particles. But they try, and fail, and keep trying. This process is what causes significant inflammation. Chronic inflammation is known to be a leading cause of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, asthma, and diabetes.
99% of the world’s population breathes air that exceeds World Health Organization limits, containing high levels of pollutants, including plastic particles which, in cities like Paris and London, is as much as 17 to 29 %. Dr. Pieters is concerned that increasing air pollution could increase the risk of plastic-related harm to the immune system. He called for urgent further research to evaluate the long-term effects of airborne plastic particles on the immune system. “A growing body of evidence suggests microplastics can cause inflammation which can compromise immune health”, he said “and we really need to study the relationship between human exposure and the effects on the immune system.”
“Humankind’s vast consumption of plastic over more than half a century means there is a real risk we are breathing in plastic. Across the world public health authorities should be extremely concerned about plastic in the air and what it is doing to our health. We urgently need to slash plastic waste to stop it getting into our air and therefore our bodies.”
Dr. Pieters presented his research work during the Plastic Health Summit, organised by Plastic Soup Foundation, initiator of the Plastic Health Coalition. The summit brought together research and testimonials presented by international experts from Indonesia, Malawi, Greenland, The Netherlands, UK, and the US.
Scientists, campaigners, activists and legal experts spoke about how plastic, in its entire lifecycle from the production-, to the user- to the disposal phase, poses a threat to the environment and people around the globe.
Watch Professor Raymond Pieters’ presentation below:
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