Plastics are Bad

TEXT: Fazel Abdolahpur Monikh & Mandar Bandekar

There are many political and social activities that have been initiated to ban single-use plastics, mitigate plastic pollution, and reduce plastic productions/consumption. The toxicity of different types of plastics has been investigated, however, researchers mostly used polystyrene as a model of microplastics. The question still remains unanswered whether the findings on polystyrene can be extrapolated to other types of plastics. There are some regulations about microplastics, but difficult to be implemented, yet.

Microplastics (1 um < size < 5 mm) are worse

Since the early 21st century, our knowledge about microplastics is increasing. We know that they can be more harmful than their larger counterparts and they induce toxicity to organisms, including humans.

Nanoplastics (size < 1 um) are the worst

Because of their small size, they can penetrate physiological barriers and easily circulate in the bodies of organisms. We know little about them. Most of the existing toxicological studies used polystyrene to understand the toxicity of nanoplastics. A knowledge gap still exists on the toxicity of other commonly found nanoplastics such as polyethylene, PVC, and polypropylene. Our team at Water Research investigated:

  • Ecotoxicity of plastic in the environment
  • Method development for tracing and characterization of plastics in the environment and organisms
  • Interaction of plastic particles with biomolecules (protein and enzymes)
  • Degradation and fate of plastic particles in the environment