A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences has uncovered startling effects of microplastics on mice, revealing significant behavioral changes and immune responses in both young and old subjects. This research expands our understanding of how these environmental pollutants might be affecting mammals — potentially including humans.
Microplastics, tiny plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in diameter, have been a growing concern for environmentalists and health professionals alike. Found in everything from water bodies to human tissues, these particles have become a symbol of modern pollution. Previous studies have primarily focused on the harmful effects of these particles on marine life — shown to cause oxidative stress, inflammation, and decreased cell vitality. However, their impact on mammals, especially on a cognitive and biological level, has remained largely unexplored.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Rhode Island, aimed to bridge this gap in knowledge. With microplastics being a constant in the environment and already proven harmful to marine organisms, the team sought to understand if similar detrimental effects could be observed in mammals. They specifically chose to explore how these particles could influence the behavior and immune responses in mice, providing insights that could have wider implications for other mammals, including humans. [Continue reading…]
Dave Ford was 28 years old and killing it in ad-tech sales but found the work unfulfilling. So, like legions of young people before him, Ford quit his job to see the world. Unlike most starry-eyed travelers, his adventures led him to the Ghazipur landfill outside Delhi, India—a smoldering garbage heap 70 acres in size and almost as tall as the Taj Mahal, dotted with people picking plastic to sell to local recyclers.
For Ford, bearing witness to this dystopic wasteland—a direct result of our single-use-plastic global economy—sparked an idea: If he couldn’t bring this mountain of garbage to Mohammad, he could certainly bring Mohammad to the mountain.
All this trash, most of it plastic, is not just unsightly, it’s a crisis, Ford says. “The Western world ships their waste to the Global South, so beaches there have knee-high garbage. Two billion people don’t have trash collection, so they’re burning it in their backyard or illegally dumping it next to rivers and monsoon areas.” Plastics get washed out to sea and are eaten by ocean animals or degrade into microparticles that enter our food systems, to the extent that the average human contains a credit card’s worth of plastic in their bodies, with unknown long-term health impacts.
To tackle this crisis, Ford took a gamble: He chartered a ship and invited leaders from Fortune 500 companies (Coca-Cola, Kimberly-Clark, Nestlé) and activist NGOs (Greenpeace, Ocean Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund) to bunk together and snorkel among the waste of the North Atlantic Gyre. And Ocean Plastic Leadership Network was born. “I don’t know if I can say we’ve cracked a code,” Ford says, “but we certainly think meaningful connection can spur all kinds of progress.” [Continue reading…]