GMB investigates the impact of microplastics in a roast dinner
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From heart disease to cancer, vegetables are one of the greatest weapons you can add to your arsenal of protection against various health problems. However, a new study has warned that the colourful foods could offer more chemicals than the desired plant ones.
Toxic chemicals from car tyres could be ending up on your dinner plate, as pollutants can get ingested by vegetables.
A new study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, paints a worrying picture, explaining how dangerous chemicals could travel to your food.
The research team discovered that once particles from car tyres rub off into the earth, they leave a trail of potentially dangerous substances in their wake.
These pesky particles can get blown around by the wind and rain, making their way to rivers and sewage.
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Wastewater and sewage sludge is often used as fertiliser in agriculture, meaning the tyre particles can reach agricultural soils.
The culprits can contaminate growing plants this way and potentially make them dangerous to eat.
What’s worse, a person will leave behind around one kilogram of potentially toxic particles each year without even knowing it.
Anya Sherman, co-first author of the study, said: “Tyre wear particles contain a number of organic chemicals, some of which are highly toxic.”
To study the risk, the scientists added five chemicals to a lettuce plant, with four of these chemicals being used in tyre production.
While not all of these chemicals have been proved to be harmful, the fifth one is considered toxic.
This pesky chemical is created once the tyre is used, rather than in the production of the wheel.
This chemical is called 6PPD-quinone and has been linked to mass deaths of salmon in the US.
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Ms Sherman said: “Our measurements showed that the lettuce plants took up all the compounds we investigated through their roots, translocated them into the lettuce leaves and accumulated them there.”
This also happened when the lettuce plants weren’t exposed to the chemicals directly, but indirectly via the left behind tyre residue.
Professor Thilo Hofmann, of the University of Vienna, said: “The lettuce plants continuously take up the potentially harmful chemicals that are released from the tyre abrasion particles over the long term.”
The substances from tyres also interacted with the lettuce plants and produced new compounds, but these compounds were unknown to scientists.
This means the research team was unable to determine whether they were toxic or not.
Dr Thorsten Hüffer, a senior scientist at CMESS, said: “Since we don’t know the toxicity of these metabolites, they pose a health risk that cannot be assessed so far.”
The team’s next step is to better trace the possible path of tyre-wear pollutants from the road to the plate.
Ruoting Peng, co-author of the study, said: “The processes we have investigated probably take place differently in soil systems.
“We are therefore looking at the possible uptake of tyre additives by plant roots in natural soils.”
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