Plastic: health impacts need urgent research

Ava Roberts with plastic waste

Ava Roberts and some of the plastic waste she collected as part of the Everyday Plastic survey.

Everyday Plastic/PA Wire
Scientists lead calls for £15 million National Plastic Health Impact Research Fund.

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

Pre-eminent scientists, campaigners and MPs yesterday called on the UK Government to fund urgent research into the health impact of plastic waste.

More than 80 experts and groups have today called on the government to ringfence £15 million for a National Plastic Health Impact Research Fund, in an open letter to prime minister Boris Johnson.

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


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&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.”

In recent years, more evidence has suggested that plastic poses a threat to human health.


Little research has been conducted to fully establish what this means for our health, despite scientists finding plastic in our air, food and water.

As much as $2.3 trillion will be invested in plastic production in the coming two decades, doubling the amount generated and significantly increasing our exposure to plastic. The experts state it is vital the government acts now. 

The National Plastic Health Impact Research Fund requires a commitment of just 0.1 percent of the UK’s total spend on research and development. 

Professor Susan Jobling, Professor Tamara Galloway and Dr Stephanie Wright, alongside other leading experts, have joined the call urging the government to address this chronically underfunded area of research. 

MP’s 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.

This Author

Brendan Montague is co-editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from Common Seas.

Greenpeace activists have dumped 625kg of plastic at Downing Street. That’s the same amount the UK government dumps on other countries every 30 seconds. 


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