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Professor Tamara Galloway with Dr Andy Booth from Norwegian research company SINTEF.

Exeter expert delivers talk to UN on ocean plastic pollution

A marine pollution expert from the University of Exeter has given a high level presentation at the United Nations headquarters, in New York.

Professor Tamara Galloway, an eco-toxicologist in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, delivered the presentation at the recent Open-ended Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (ICP-17) session on Marine Debris, Plastics and Microplastics.

Professor Galloway’s presentation focused on the potential impact on human health caused by micro and nanoplastics – which are small plastic particles less than 1 mm in length. Environmentalists and scientists believe that these microbeads are increasingly contaminating the marine environment, and have growing concerns about the biological damage they can potentially cause.

The risks to health posed by uncontrolled disposal of waste plastics has been recognised not only by the United Nations Environment Programme, but is also one of the G7 summit Strategic Development Goals, which aims to reduce marine debris and microplastics by encouraging improvements to legislation, waste management and social education.

Speaking after the presentation, Professor Galloway said: “Talking to the United Nations consultations was an amazing experience, and I was overwhelmed by the interest from so many countries in the work we are doing to understand the risks these microplastics pose once they enter the food chain. We are really hopeful that our research will help to support better legislation internationally to help control this growing pollution problem.”

Professor Galloway, whose research focuses on marine pollution, the human health effects of pollutants and the sustainable development of novel materials and substances, recently gave evidence at the UK Environmental Audit Committee, which was conducting an inquiry into the environmental impact of microplastics.

Date: 1 July 2016

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