100x more microplastics being inhaled than previously predicted

Good Morning Britain (GMB) has partnered with the University of Portsmouth in an investigation into airbourne microplastics and their impact on health.

The findings have been published this week amidst ongoing talks at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), many of which focus on the issues surrounding plastic pollution.

MicroplasticsAs part of the study’s release, Dr Fay Couceiro, Reader in Environmental Pollution at the University of Portsmouth, tested for microplastics in the home on GMB using newly developed technology. She found that low levels of breathable microplastics were detectable in indoor air for ‘the first time’, with the reading demonstrating that the house’s inhabitants were likely to be inhaling between 2,000 - 7,000 microplastics on a daily basis.

Professor Anoop Jivan Chauhan MBE, Respiratory Specialist and Director of Research and Innovation at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, has claimed that the results of the investigation are 100 times higher than those previously predicted by other academic papers. This begs the question, Chauhan states, what does the inhalation and ingestion of microplastics do to the human body once the matter has entered the bloodstream; and are certain groups within the population either at higher risk of exposure or more susceptible to the direct effects of inhalation?

Professor Anoop Jivan Chauhan MBE said: “This unique study shows very high levels of microplastics in our homes and the data uncovered is really quite shocking.

“Potentially we each inhale or swallow up to 1.8 million microplastics every year and once in the body, it’s hard to imagine they’re not doing irreversible damage. There can be no health benefits of inhaling microplastics; they’re dangerous and we need more research like this to fully understand how they can harm our bodies.

“To date, the bulk of research has centred around pollutants outside of the home such as car emissions but as this initiative proves, it’s essential we widen our focus on the dangers in our homes.”

Professor Steve Fletcher, Director of Revolution Plastics, through whom the University of Portsmouth conducted its research, said: “The results that have come from our laboratories highlight the worrying issue of the all pervasive plastic pollution that is everywhere around us. Here at the University of Portsmouth we are continuing to search for solutions to a growing threat that for many is only just becoming apparent.

“Be it microplastics in the air or large amounts of plastic waste in our oceans, there needs to be a better understanding of the impact and ways of dealing with it.”

Alberto Costa MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Microplastics, said: “I am shocked to read of the University of Portsmouth’s findings that large quantities of airborne microplastics are present in our homes. Important research such as this must be carried out so we can better understand the potential harms microplastics can have not only to the environment but to human health.

“As Chair of the APPG on Microplastics, we have been looking at the effects microfibre plastics can have, which are shed from textiles during laundry, on our rivers and seas. I am urging the Government to consider bringing forward legislation to ensure all new washing machines are fitted with microfibre catching filters and will be raising this in the House of Commons.”

Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder, said: "Plastic is not just a pollution crisis. It is a human health crisis. Two weeks ago, I was at the Plastic Health Summit, a convening of global doctors, scientists and toxicologists all working on the irrefutable proof that plastic toxins are extremely harmful to human health, especially to babies and children. Plastic toxins are now found in the placenta and even in unborn babies throughout pregnancy. New-borns have twice as much plastic in their poop than adults.

"We think we may be helping the plastic crisis by popping our plastic in the right bin but plastic is so insidiously embedded in our entire world – 70 per cent of our clothing, in our carpets; our bedding; the paint on our walls – it is impossible to escape.

"And it’s not just the forever toxins. If the plastic industry were a country, it would be the 5th biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. And yet plastic was not even on the agenda at COP26. It is the last gasp of a dying fossil fuel industry, predicted to treble by 2040. For the health of our planet and our children, we must urgently turn off the plastic tap."