Long read by John Vidal:We eat and breathe plastic. How does it affect our health?
Common Seas identifies, investigates and communicates the emerging human health risks of plastic.
From finding plastic in our blood…
To linking the inhalation of microfibres to lung disease…
To understanding how plastic pollution transmits pathogens…
We all have a right to know how plastic affects our health.
Our work helps everyone – whether they’re policymakers, business leaders or citizens – to make informed choices that stop plastic pollution in our oceans and our bodies.
We are on the precipice of a plastic health crisis.
January 2020 – June 2022
In ground-breaking research, our team at Vrije University in Amsterdam found tiny pieces of plastic in human blood. This work is published in Environment International.
During 2022, we ran a global communications campaign to publicise these results and drive action.
Over a million people watched our animation (voiced by Stephen Fry), and over 100,000 people joined 80 Environmental NGOs, scientists and Members of Parliament in asking the UK Government to allocate £15m for plastics and health research.
Following the success of Blood Type Plastic, Common Seas is launching four further research projects to answer important questions about how plastic impacts health.
Does the plastic in our blood accumulate in our organs?
Common Seas is working with Imperial College London to understand whether plastic particles are accumulating in our organs and tissues.
Does plastic from food and drink packaging end up in our blood?
This project will investigate whether the single-use plastic used to package so much of our food and drink increases the amount of plastic entering our bodies.
In the study, participants will be asked to consume food and drink in plastic packaging. The research team will then measure whether this ‘spikes’ the amount of plastics in their blood and urine.
Status: Fully underwritten by Minderoo Foundation. Research commissioned and ethical approval in progress.
Does plastic in the lungs cause disease?
Microplastics in the air can enter our bodies. There’s growing evidence this can harm our health.
This study will look at lung tissue samples to understand how the presence, quantity, size and type of microplastic is associated with different types of lung disease.
We believe this study presents the biggest opportunity to build evidence that plastic particles pose specific health risks.
Status: Not commissioned, seeking funding.
Do disposable diapers transmit diseases and cause antibiotic resistance?
We want evidence that plastic waste spreads disease.
Common Seas runs a reusable diaper project in Indonesia, which aims to radically reduce the number of disposable diapers entering local waterways.
As part of this project, we have commissioned research to explore whether used diapers accelerate the spread of disease and antibiotic resistance.
The results of this research will allow us to more strongly advocate for change:
See our Indonesian project page for more information about this work.
Status: Research commissioned and underway
We partner with governments to help them measure and quickly reduce their countries’ plastic pollution.
We’re helping Paros become the first single-use plastic waste-free island in the Mediterranean. By delivering a success story here, we are showcasing a methodology that could work anywhere.
Supported by evidence from our Plastic Drawdown programme, the President of the Maldives announced a total phase-out of single-use plastics by 2023. We provide technical assistance and demonstrate the impact of policy to support this ambitious strategy.
Together with our partners, we are cleaning up the Brantas River, transforming it into a source of healthy drinking water for the millions of people living along its banks. The Brantas is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. About 50% of the plastic waste currently in and entering the Brantas is single-use diapers. Our local team is therefore initially focusing on stopping the flow of single-use diapers into the river in a way that brings widespread and long-lasting social and economic benefits to the region.