Call to as­sess the plas­tic ef­fect

Wanneroo Times - - News - Matt Zis

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 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 last year con­firmed 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.”

She said a mi­croplas­tic mea­sure could be used by en­vi­ron­men­tal health of­fi­cers, who al­ready test food prod­ucts for pathogens and agri­cul­tural residue lev­els, to pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion to gov­ern­ment and ul­ti­mate re­duce food-re­lated risks.

Dr Anna Callen, from ECU’s School of Med­i­cal and Health Sciences, agreed it was time to step up the re­search into the ef­fect of plas­tics in­gested by hu­mans.

Pic­ture: Mar­tin Ken­nealey

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