EU project to investigate impact and consequences of micro and nanoplastics on human health

PLASTICHEAL project will develop new methodologies and will provide reliable scientific evidence for regulators to set the knowledge basis for adequate risk assessment. The results will draw a variety of experimental human models and measuring potential health effects under short and long-term conditions.

Humans are exposed to incidental micro and nanoplastics (MNPLs) due to their ubiquitous presence in the environment, but there is only very limited information on the potential impact of this exposure on human health. Therefore, the current regulatory framework cannot ensure that incidental MNPLs present in the air, and in food and beverage products are at safe levels for the population.

In this context, the European project PLASTICHEAL, coordinated by the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), aims at providing new methodologies and evidence to regulators by combining the use of breakthrough research and reliable test methods to set the knowledge basis for adequate risk assessment of MNPLs.

Innovative approach

The project will first generate human exposure estimates after identification, measurement, and characterization of MNPLs present in the environmental air, water and food sources, as well as in human biological samples of population groups with potential high MNPLs exposure levels.

Then a variety of complementary experimental models and methodologies will be applied to screen for several potential MNPLs-induced effects. In vitro, in vivo and in silico models will be applied to develop a MNPLs predictive toxicology: the combined advanced analytical and computational methods will allow not only to decipher cellular responses or identify critical pathways relevant to key traits or conditions, but also to retrieve a highly informative set of features to predict toxicity.

We want to study the long-term impact on the general population and also on the most vulnerable groups, not only among the people most exposed to MNPLs, but also among those with health conditions that could make them more vulnerable to potential adverse effects."

Ricard Marcos, Professor at Department of Genetics and Microbiology and Project Coordinator, Autonomous University of Barcelona

The data generated will be processed by integrative analysis methods to obtain MNPLs mechanistic insight, and to identify key events with potential to be consolidated as novel biomarkers of MNPLs long-term effects.

Social impact

The ultimate purpose of PLASTICHEAL is to inform regulators in order to provide better protection from plastics exposure to workers, consumers and the environment. The generated risk characterization will contribute to the determination of MNPLs "acceptable" levels for human health. It will also help identifying the main sources of MNPLs human exposure.

A continuous feedback will be established with regulators, NGOs, consumers, general population, and industry involved in the plastic life cycle in order to identify key questions and to ensure societal and regulatory relevance.

The knowledge gained and the methodology developed in PLASTICHEAL will permit the identification and management of safety issues related to human exposure to incidental MNPLs.

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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