A Research Project by Matteo Rosellini
Plastic is one of the most important material in industrialized countries and it has revolutionized our life. It is all around us and we should be aware of the widely neglected problems it may bring. Despite huge annual inputs of plastic litter into oceans (4.8–12.7 million metric tons), the hazards to both environment and human health are widely neglected. Several garbage patches have formed in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Plastic litter decomposes into microplastic particles in seawater, and toxic chemical compounds are released into the water.
Due to their size, microplastics are available for even more marine species than larger plastic debris. The widely underestimated danger in intoxication of sea life with chemical plastic compounds, is that seafood poisoned with plastic compounds enter the food chain and end up in the human organism with harmful consequences for human health. Thereby, microplastic contaminations of the oceans turn from an ecotoxicological issue to a toxicological problem in human beings. There are some hints for liver metabolization of plastic-related chemicals in seawater animals, less is known in human beings. These xenobiotics are metabolized by cytochrome P450 monooxygenases (CYP family members) and excreted form the body by ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters both in human beings and marine animals. Regarding liver metabolization by CYPs and excretion by ABC transporters, there is sufficient information available for numerous toxic xenobiotics, but less for plastic compounds. We hypothesize that plastic compounds may act in a similar way as other xenobiotic compounds.
This project aims to be a starting point for a better understanding of these questions and the risks associated with microplastics for human and animal health.
Author: Matteo Rosellini