Plastic and 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.

Without action, plastic producers will invest £2.3 trillion and double plastic generation within the next 20 years.

This won’t just harm the environment, biodiversity and our climate, it will significantly increase all of our exposure to plastic, and therefore the risk to our health.

We urgently need new clinical research into the impacts of plastic on human health – an area that is currently chronically underfunded.

Common Seas is spearheading this research to create a solid evidence base from which to drive rapid change.

Blood Type Plastic

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.

Question One

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.

The research team started by examining 240 gut and brain tissue samples.

If we discover plastic accumulation, we will then investigate how that affects our health, specifically focusing on chronic inflammatory and auto immune responses.

Status: Research commissioned and underway.
Seeking funding for communications campaign.

Question Two

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.

Question Three

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.

Question Four

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:

  • helping the government set targets and introduce policy
  • encouraging diaper businesses to take lifecycle responsibility for their products
  • supporting families and the community to protect their health and environment.

See our Indonesian project page for more information about this work.

Status: Research commissioned and underway

We are seeking funds and strategic partners to maximise the impact of our plastic and health work.

If you would like to talk about opportunities to become involved, please get in touch.

[email protected]

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