Microplastics in seafood

2 March 2021

Professor Kevin Thomas, Director of the Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences (QAEHS), appeared on ABC Radio's Health Report with Dr Norman Swan, talking about the amount of microplastics Australians consume and its effect on health.

Microplastics are getting right up there in the anxiety stakes when it comes to the scourges of the modern world.

We hear that they are prolific in our oceans and washing up on beaches, even finding their way into our food supply.

Perhaps you've seen headlines saying we consume a credit card's worth of microplastics every week, or that microplastic have been found in our poo.

Now a new research paper has tried to identify the seafoods most likely to contribute microplastics to the Australian diet.

UQ's Professor Kevin Thomas studies the health impacts of exposure to all sorts of contaminants in the environment, and he says that the biggest (or smallest) problem with microplastics is that the ones that are most likely to cause health problems are the tiniest ones, and we really don't have enough information about our exposure to them.

"If you think about air pollution, which is one of the really well studied particle health affect areas, we look at particles that are less than 2.5 microns, and we haven't really gone into that size range in very many studies with microplastics yet," Professor Thomas said.

"So it's really hard to say whether we are exposed to those really small particles that we think may be capable of going into cells, crossing cell membranes, for instance being absorbed through the gut or the lungs."

Listen to the full ABC report