01 Sep 2023 PROJECT NEWS

National Croatian TV highlights Imptox research

Prof. Mirjana Turkalj from Srebrnjak Children's Hospital explains their research and informs the public about the potential risks of microplastic pollution.

On August 27th, Imptox researcher Prof. Turkalj was featured in an interview on the national Croatian TV broadcast, Hrvatska Radiotelevizija (HRT), during their news program Dnevnik HRT. The discussion revolved around Imptox and the potential risks posed by microplastics.

Prof. Turkalj offered valuable insights, emphasizing, "If a plastic bottle has been exposed to sunlight for an extended period, it's best not to use it anymore." This cautionary note is particularly relevant, especially with the prevalent use of disposable plastic bottles during the summer and at beach destinations. These bottles have the potential to release microplastics and other potentially harmful chemicals. It's worth noting that heat isn't the sole factor contributing to microplastic release; even microwave cooking, especially in plastic containers not designed for such use, can be a culprit. In reality, microplastics have infiltrated various aspects of our lives, from our food and beverages to the air we breathe, the water we drink, and even our seas. Recently, experts have even detected them within the human heart.

Regarding the Imptox project, Prof. Turkalj conveyed that the results are still in the process of being generated. It's anticipated that important findings will emerge once all the samples and data are collected and meticulously analyzed at the project's conclusion. The Imptox team believes that microplastics might play a role in the development of allergic diseases. As one of the 12 research partners hailing from 8 European countries involved in the project, their institution is dedicated to investigating the direct and indirect health effects of microplastics, particularly in children.

Prof. Turkalj detailed her team's ambitious undertaking within the project. Over 650 children from three Croatian regions will undergo testing for allergies, and various routes of exposure to microplastics will be meticulously assessed. This evaluation will encompass inhalation, dietary intake, and water consumption. To facilitate this, a range of biological samples, including stool, blood, and exhaled breath condensate, will be collected and subjected to thorough analysis.

In addition to physiological data, lifestyle and dietary habits will be scrutinized. This includes the assessment of plastic packaging usage, the types of food and water containers employed, and the nature of food consumed. The objective is to discern any correlations between these factors and microplastic exposure.

Prof. Turkalj also touched upon the complex issue of what constitutes a threshold for negative health effects concerning microplastic exposure. She suggested that it's unlikely to be a one-time occurrence or just a few isolated instances. The prevailing belief is that the impact is cumulative, which is especially concerning for children, given their vulnerability. Long-term exposure tends to pose greater risks. Studies have already revealed the pervasive presence of microplastics in nearly every tissue and organ within the human body. These intruders may be linked to compromised immune responses, reduced resistance to pathogens, and more, but studies are still ongoing and no conclusive results are yet available.

To watch the entire interview (in Croatian) and explore where microplastics can be found in our surroundings, click here.