Leading cancer scientist warns plastic could contribute to aggressive spread of cancer

New research emerges ahead of INC-4 talks in Canada on global plastics treaty


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A new study from a leading cancer researcher raises concerns about a possible link between plastic exposure and cancer progression. Research suggests that microplastics, tiny plastic particles found throughout the environment, may accelerate the spread of cancer cells in humans.

Cancer cells exposed to microplastics demonstrated increased migration, potentially allowing them to move through the body and establish secondary tumors (metastases), said Lucas Kenner, cancer researcher and deputy director of the Clinical Institute for Pathology, Vienna Medical University warned in a press statement.

The paper written by Kenner et al., Role of microplastics in cell migration and distribution during cancer cell division.was recently published in the journal science direct, Notably, the research team also found that microplastics persist within dividing cells, raising concerns about long-term exposure.

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The concerns were raised ahead of the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) to create an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. The INC-4 talks will be held in Ottawa, Canada from April 23-30, 2024.

Negotiations for a global plastics treaty present an important opportunity to address the growing plastic pollution crisis and its potential impact on human health.

The paper's authors found plastic particles smaller than 1 micrometer inside lysosomes, which are structures within the cells of human gastrointestinal cancer cells. These microplastic particles accumulate in inactive areas of tumor spheroids, which are tumor-like cell clusters.

During cell division, these particles are transferred between cells. Additionally, plastic particles measuring 0.25 micrometers increase cell migration, potentially increasing the chance of cancer spreading to other parts of the body, the research suggests.

Kenner highlighted the sensitivity of unborn babies, as microplastics have been detected in the placenta, potentially being transferred to the fetus. He stressed the urgency of addressing plastic pollution, saying, “The findings scare me, and I hope it scares other people too.”

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Plastic Health Council – a group of scientists dedicated to researching the far-reaching effects of micro-, nano-plastics and chemicals on human health and co-founded by the non-profit marine conservation organization Plastic Soup Foundation and the Dutch non-profit Resilient Foundation. Is established – has urged policy makers. Prioritizing human health in plastics treaty discussions.

The Council advocated a multi-pronged approach to address the widespread problem of plastic pollution. At the heart of their recommendations is the goal of reducing plastic production, with an emphasis on reducing the total amount of plastic manufactured.

He proposed the elimination of non-essential single-use plastics, advocating the elimination of unnecessary plastic items in favor of readily available alternatives.

The Council stressed the importance of mandatory testing of plastics chemicals, which aims to guarantee the absence of harmful substances in plastics production processes.

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Furthermore, they underlined the need for government action to protect public health from the harmful effects of plastic pollution, with a focus on achieving clean and safe environments for future generations.

“The Global Plastics Pact represents a milestone in the path to the plastics crisis. But change will only happen if policymakers take their heads out of the sand and listen to the science,” said Maria Westerbos, founder of the Plastic Soup Foundation.

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