University of Western Australia: Understanding the effect of plastic exposure on human health

A new paper from The University of Western Australia that reviews the known effects of plastic-associated chemicals on cardiovascular health, highlights the high health risk of the chemicals and calls for further clinical studies.

The review, published in Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity, found mounting evidence that exposure to plastic-associated chemicals contributed to metabolic conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Lead author Clinical Professor and immunologist Michaela Lucas from the UWA Medical School, said there was a real concern as plastic contaminated almost every aspect of modern life including our food and drink, personal care products and the environment.

“Just as plastic builds up in our oceans, there’s growing concern that chemicals like bisphenols and phthalates, which are frequently used in the manufacture of plastic products, are being stored in body fat, causing chronic inflammation leading to a range of health issues,” Professor Lucas said.

“Clear evidence on the potential effect of decreasing exposure to plastic chemicals to improve metabolic and cardiovascular health is needed. We believe that a randomised trial designed to measure plastic-associated chemicals exposure will provide such evidence.”

Dr Andrew Lucas, a Research Fellow from the UWA School of Biomedical Sciences and joint author of the review, said while multiple observational studies had already been carried out on the impact of plastic-associated chemicals, a lot remained unknown.

“We don’t know what the critical threshold and relative contribution of these plastic-associated chemicals is in causing disease in relation to other lifestyle factors, nor the potential effect and extent of the accumulation of these chemicals in the body,” Dr Lucas said.

The study team, which includes co-author Dr Susan Herrmann, also from the UWA Medical School, and internationally recognised UWA Winthrop Professor of Cardiometabolic Medicine Gerald Watts, recently received funding from the Minderoo Foundation to study the effects of plastic-associated chemicals on human health.

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