How mountain-top thinking is taking on plastic pollution

24 August 2021

Professor Kevin Thomas, Centre Director for QAEHS, featured in a Fundraising & Philanthropy article discussing our exposure to micro plastics and the partnership between the Minderoo Foundation and UQ. 

The Minderoo Foundation’s recent $4.5 million grant to the University of Queensland is part of a carefully planned granting strategy to change our plastics industry before it’s too late.

“Current best estimates suggest that, on average, an adult consumes around 1,000 plastic particles a day through food, water and air,” says the University of Queensland’s Professor Kevin Thomas, a key player in Minderoo’s strategy to reach the mountain top and eliminate plastic pollution.

We know that we eat, drink and breathe in plastic particles. What we need to know is: where do they go?

As Professor Thomas explains, “Understanding exposure is one of the key steps in determining potential health risks of plastics and associated chemicals.”

And we can’t understand where the plastic goes, and the exposure our bodies are subject to, until we can measure the tiny nano plastic particles.

Enter a very special partnership.

The grant will help researchers to develop techniques to measure nano plastics and understand if they, and the chemicals that leach out of plastic products, are found in the human body.

Existing evidence, explored by the Minderoo Foundation, indicates that plastic, and plastic chemicals, are making their way into our bodies.

Current evidence, and the unexplained escalation of certain childhood and adult health issues, suggests these plastics and chemicals act as endocrine disruptors that have a profound effect on human health.

Where UQ comes in, is by filling the gaps in evidence through research that measures the volume of micro/nano plastics and plastic chemicals in human bodies.

The Foundation’s partnership with UQ and a global network of stakeholders will provide irrefutable evidence of damage to the human body alongside awareness and advocacy, with the objective of driving a redesign of plastic that is safe for consumers, does not harm the environment and offers a viable market alternative for industry.

As part of its grant, the Foundation is supporting some of UQ’s leading scientists, postdoctoral researchers and PhD students.

Read the article