A group of citizen scientists are being recruited to investigate the scale of microplastic air pollution inside our homes.
During the first phase of the study, researchers from the University of Leeds will work with 40 families from Bradford in West Yorkshire, to measure the microplastics caught in sampling devices placed inside their homes.
The families will be active participants in the study and will be involved in analysing the microplastic fragments to try and identify the sources of the pollution
Previous research has revealed the build-up of microplastics in the oceans, food and drinking water, but this is the first investigation to measure the extent of microplastic pollution in the home environment.
There is some speculation that microplastics may be coming from textiles, and that their distribution might be affected by ventilation and the age of the building.
Dr Kirsty Pringle, a research scientist at the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science at the University of Leeds, said: ‘Huge amounts of plastic are produced and disposed of every single day, and we now know that this has caused microplastic particles to build up throughout the natural environment.
‘While researchers have found microplastics in very remote locations, even in the “clean” air on the Alps, very few people have looked at airborne plastics closer to home.
‘In this project, we will study microplastics in the air in people’s houses. It is particularly important to understand levels of pollution in our houses because it is where we tend to spend most of our time, so any health effects are likely to be more significant.’
Dr Mark Taylor, research officer and textile technologist added: ‘We all have textiles in the home, but we don’t really know which of these contribute most to airborne microplastics, and to what extent it is a problem.
‘The research into the health effects of breathing microplastics is still very young. Many of the particles are small enough to pass by our bodies’ natural defences and enter our lungs.
‘If they can enter the lungs they may pose some risk to health. But we really need to understand more about what types of microplastics exist in the air in our homes before we can understand the health effects.’