Plastic health fears
NOT much is known about the effect microplastics have on people but there is a push from local quarters to determine any human health risk associated with inadvertent consumption.
Microplastic is the term given to plastic particles less than 5mm long, which can be released into the environment from sources such as synthetic clothing and road paint, the breakdown of bigger plastic items and as microbeads from items such as facial scrubs or body washes.
Canning councillor Sara Saberi has called for WA-led research to learn more about how widely microplastics occur in what people consume and, more broadly, to drive action.
“Studies have shown that microplastics have been found in fish, seafoods and other foods such as honey, beer and table salt,” she said.
“More research into the health risk posed by microplastic particles in food is needed.”
European scientists confirmed last year for the first time that microplastics had been found in humans and suggested people could ingest as many as 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic a year, through consuming seafood or accidentally eating bits of packaging.
The WA Local Government Association is taking up the baton in 2019 to push the Department of Health to develop guidelines for safe levels in food and water.
Cr Saberi, who works as an environmental health officer, said testing was possible but without limits to test against there was currently little point.
“At the moment there are no standardised tests in Australia to detect the presence of microplastics in food,” she said.
“Once maximum residue levels for microplastics are in place, occurrence data in food can be generated and dietary exposure may be assessed.”
Canning Councillor Sara Saberi with plastic litter left on the foreshore.