Plastic causes cancer

Nanoplastic inflammation in the bloodstream

Status: 07/12/2019 10:47 a.m.

Plastic littering the oceans is one of the greatest problems of our time. The area with plastic waste on the North Pacific alone is now four times the size of Germany. This includes large, visible parts such as fishing nets and bottles through to the smallest of microplastics. The international crew on the French research vessel "Tara" would like to draw attention to what this means for the seas, the fish and also the people.

Every year 600,000 tons of plastic waste from Europe end up in the sea

Researchers are on the road with the "Tara" in Europe for six months. The researchers take water samples wherever the research ship moored - for example from the Elbe in Hamburg and the Thames in London. "Scientists estimate that six to eight million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans from land every year," says expedition leader Romain Troublé. China is the biggest polluter in the world. "But Europe is in second place. We put around 600,000 tons of plastic waste into the sea every year."

Researchers are also finding plastic in the Flensburg Fjord

When they stop in the Flensburg Fjord, the researchers quickly find what they are looking for: They only pull a small net over the surface of the water for a brief moment - and there are several small plastic parts in it. The result does not surprise the toxologist Prof. Edmund Maser from the Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel.

Nanoplastic inflammation in the bloodstream

In an interview with NDR Schleswig-Holstein, Maser explains that there is now scientific evidence that microplastics are also absorbed by humans - previously "only" in the gastrointestinal tract. It is assumed, however, that plastic can also be absorbed systemically, i.e. that it is distributed throughout the body via the intestines. The toxicologist points out the danger: "If the microplastic becomes nanoplastic, which can then also get into the bloodstream in humans - this can then lead to inflammation in the body."

Chemical substances: cancer and damage to the immune system

In addition, the plastic still contains chemical substances that have long been banned. "We also have to expect that plastic contains pollutants - such as plasticizers - which are released when they get into the human body and then accumulate in the fatty tissue," says Maser. Released in the body, they could cause cancer and damage the immune system.

The "Tara" crew reports that they see the same picture from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic: plastic parts swim in all the seas and rivers where the crew has taken water samples so far.

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Schleswig-Holstein 18:00 | 07/12/2019 | 6:00 p.m.