Experts urge Government to fund research on health impact of plastic

More than 80 scientists, campaigners and MPs will today call on the Government to fund urgent research into the health impact of plastic waste. 

Writing in an open letter to the Prime Minister, experts have urged the Government to ringfence £15 million for a National Plastic Health Impact Research Fund.

The research fund was devised by social enterprise Common Seas and is backed by NGOs Greenpeace, WWF, Friends of the Earth and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. 

Scientists argue that, in recent years, there is increasing evidence to support the idea that plastic poses a threat to human health.  

Little research has been conducted to fully establish the extent of this, however.

Ocean Seas suggests that, within the next 20 years, £1.66 trillion will be invested in plastic production, doubling the amount generated and increasing public exposure to plastic.

Experts stress that it is vital the Government acts now.

According to the statement issued by Common Seas, The National Plastic Health Impact Research Fund requires a commitment of 0.1 per cent of the UK’s total spend on research and development of £15 billion.

Leading UK scientists – including Professor Susan Jobling, Professor Tamara Galloway and Dr Stephanie Wright – have joined the call, urging the Government to fund this area of research.

MPs Henry Smith, Mick Whitley, and Rosie Cooper have also joined the list of signatories lending their support to the National Plastic Health Impact Research Fund.

Jo Royle, Founder and CEO of Common Seas said: “We breathe in, drink and eat plastic particles every day.

“As plastic production skyrockets, so does our exposure.”

“The scientists are worried that plastic may harm our immune system and increase chronic illnesses, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

“We all have a right to know what plastic is doing to our bodies.”

“Whitehall recently announced its commitment to making Britain a world leader in R and D in health and life sciences.”

“We are asking the Government to lead the investigation into what could become one of the most profound public health challenges in generations.”

Friends of the Earth’s plastics campaigner Camilla Zerr commented: “A research fund is needed to target the UK’s biggest source of plastic pollution: microplastics.

“Every year tiny bits of plastic fall off car tyres, synthetic clothes or materials such as polystyrene, and end up in our waterways.”

“Here fish may mistake them for food, which could in turn be consumed by humans, plastics and all.”

“According to the EU’s chief scientific advisers, current evidence for the environmental and health risks of microplastics provides grounds for genuine concern.”

“Without an understanding of these impacts, there will always be room for decision-makers to dismiss the problem, dither and delay.”

“New research could be ground-breaking, and help protect human lives and wildlife from the health challenges associated with our addiction to plastics before it’s too late.”