Plastic-free ‘submarine’ helps Queensland scientists find if nanoplastics are inside us

14 March 2022

Professor Kevin Thomas, Centre Director of UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences spoke with The Guardian about the plastic-free lab researching how plastic absorption occurs and if it is harming humans.

The insulating wall panels are made from aluminium. The floor, ceiling and walls are made from steel that is welded to avoid the use of silicone or plastic joins. The air-filters are made from paper.

“Affectionately, it’s called the submarine,” Professor Thomas said.

Inside this metal box – just 12 sq metres in size and funded by the foundation of the mining billionaire, Andrew Forrest – scientists hope to answer one of the world’s most pressing environmental questions: is plastic, and the multitude of chemicals that go with it, getting into the tissues in our bodies? And if it is, are humans being harmed?

“A normal lab is full of plastics and the chemicals used to make them. They’re abundant,” Professor Thomas said.

“But I don’t know if we can say that they’re dangerous yet. But I want to know.”

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