Feds funding research into microplastics’ health effects

The federal ministry of health is providing $2.1 million over four years to three academic institutions to increase research of microplastics and their potential impact on human health.

McGill University, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Toronto have been selected to undertake research related to the potential exposure to microplastics from various sources, including food, food packaging, drinking water, indoor and outdoor air, as well as dust through the Environmental Health Research Contribution Program. Collectively, these initiatives will improve the understanding of the potential impacts of microplastics on human health.

The Environmental Health Research Contribution Program funds research to increase knowledge of the health impacts of microplastics, improve monitoring of human exposure to microplastics, and encourage the development of new methods, approaches and technologies related to human health risks of microplastics. 

Research through this program aligns with the priorities of Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda and will fill knowledge gaps identified in the Government of Canada’s 2020 Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution.

“There is a lot we don’t know about the effect of microplastics on human health,” said federal health minister Mark Holland.

“That is why programs like this one were created – to support Canadian scientists in improving the understanding of the human health impacts of microplastics. These projects will not only expand our knowledge, but hopefully inspire more research and inform future actions to protect the health of Canadians.”

Microplastics can come from various sources such as microfibres released from washing of clothes or microbeads released through wastewater. Microplastics can also be formed through the breakdown of larger plastic items in the environment. Humans may be exposed to microplastics via the ingestion of food, bottled water, and tap water, as well as through the breathing of indoor and outdoor air.