16 May 2022 IN THE NEWS

Imptox Featured in Serbian Media

Serbian media talk to Imptox researcher Dr. Jelena Mutic from the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Belgrade.

 

“When you hear that a project has received a multimillion-dollar grant from Horizon 2020, you can be sure that it pushes the boundaries of research and innovation and is of great importance to society as a whole”, writes the Serbian magazine Klima 101 about Imptox. In their conversation with Dr. Mutic, she explains how Imptox pushes those bounderies to their limits and why it is so important to gain more knowledge on micro- and nanoplastics.

Humanity today is faced with the challenge of plastics pollution, presenting itself in almost any corner of our planet. Clearly a revolutionary material, appreciated for its lightness, strength, flexible shape and durability, that last aspect may turn out to be a double-edged sword.

“As plastics endure in the environment, they decompose forming micro- and nanoplastic particles of different shapes, chemical compositions and sizes. These tiny pieces are invisible to the naked eye and their movement is impossible to control, so we can find them in oceans, rivers, air and land,” says Dr. Mutic.

Unfortunately, the presence of MNPs is not limited to the environment, as micro- and nanoplastics also find their way into the human body through food, water or air. In recent studies MNPs have even been found in human blood and lungs, and the public is eager to learn more about those invisible specks of plastics that seem to be all around us.

The problem is, says Prof. Mutic, “that we do not know how dangerous they actually are for human health and what problems they can cause.” 

Imptox, has received a € 6 million research grant from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program to help gain a better understanding of the impact of micro- and nanoplastics on human health.

In the interview Dr. Mutic explains the current challenge with the standardization of analytical methods for the isolation, quantification and characterization of micro- and nanoplastics on a European level, which is why Imptox is cooperating with four other large research initiatives in the European Research Cluster to Understand the Health Impacts of Micro- and Nanoplists, CUSP.

Dr. Mutic’s research group located at the Department of Analytical Chemistry in particular is concerned with the development of new analytical methods for the isolation of microplastic particles from biological samples (food, plants and soil) for quantification and characterization, making use of spectroscopic and electrochemical methods. Two more Departments at the Faculty of Chemistry are involved in this research project: The Department of Biochemistry, dealing with molecular allergology, protein chemistry and proteomics; and the Department of Organic Chemistry, trying to understand the movement of microplastic particles through tissues and finding accumulation sites in the human body.

The European Union has committed itself to addressing the challenges posed by plastics. Imptox research will contribute to the European Plastics Strategy aiming to protect our environment and health.

But there is much we can do in terms of awareness-raising too. “It is important to talk about the problem, to organize forums for scientists and the general public so everyone is informed about the risks. We need to work on raising awareness among children about the harmfulness of plastic that ends up as waste in the environment,” concludes Dr. Mutic.

To find out more about the ongoing Imptox research at the University of Belgrade, Faculty of Chemistry, read on for the original article (in Serbian) at Klima 101. The same article has been republished at National Georgraphic Serbija and Nova Ekonomija.

Click here for a recent interview with Dr. Mutic (in Serbian) on national Serbian television (RTS1), where she spoke about analytical challenges of microplastics detection and the Imptox project in general.