Anionic nanoplastic contaminants promote Parkinson’s disease–associated α-synuclein aggregation

Nanoplastics in brain linked to Parkinson’s disease, dementia proteins

Scientists find that the presence of extremely small plastic particles, called nanoplastics, in mouse brains appears to be linked to formation of proteins associated with development of Parkinson’s disease and related dementias. Mice, humans, and other animals collect plastic particles in their bodies when they eat, drink, and breathe. Some plastic particles may even be absorbed by the skin.

Abstract: Recent studies have identified increasing levels of nanoplastic pollution in the environment. Here, we find that anionic nanoplastic contaminants potently precipitate the formation and propagation of α-synuclein protein fibrils through a high-affinity interaction with the amphipathic and non-amyloid component (NAC) domains in α-synuclein. Nanoplastics can internalize in neurons through clathrin-dependent endocytosis, causing a mild lysosomal impairment that slows the degradation of aggregated α-synuclein. In mice, nanoplastics combine with α-synuclein fibrils to exacerbate the spread of α-synuclein pathology across interconnected vulnerable brain regions, including the strong induction of α-synuclein inclusions in dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. These results highlight a potential link for further exploration between nanoplastic pollution and α-synuclein aggregation associated with Parkinson’s disease and related dementias.

GAIA has created a white paper debunking the concepts of “plastics circularity” and “circular economy of plastics.” Learn why plastics were not, and cannot be, made to be circular. And learn what kinds of real solutions do work to end plastic pollution.

The paper features an updated waste hierarchy that identifies harmful methods of waste management that should be avoided.

In November 2023, Oceana released a nationwide poll (link to results below) finding that over 70% of American voters are concerned about the negative impacts of “chemical recycling” (a process of melting down plastic into its petrochemical components with chemicals or heat, that is also called “advanced recycling”). Also included among the findings: 79% of voters are concerned about the serious health risks associated with toxic chemical emissions from “chemical recycling” plants. Additionally, 76% of voters are concerned about the disproportionate impact on neighborhoods near “chemical recycling” plants.

The vast majority of voters are concerned about how “chemical recycling” of plastic contributes to climate change (73%) and that it often requires more energy and emits more pollution than conventional recycling (73%).

The poll, conducted by the nonpartisan polling company Ipsos, surveyed 1,000 American adults from across the U.S. between December 12 and 19, 2022.

Dangerous chemicals make their way into recycled plastic materials from a variety of sources. Since nearly all plastics are made from a combination of carbon (mainly oil/gas) and toxic chemicals, the most obvious pathway is direct contamination, as chemicals from the original plastic products simply transfer into recycled plastic. But chemicals can also enter recycled plastics in other ways, due to contamination in the plastic waste stream and the recycling process itself. This Greenpeace report shows us why plastics do not have a place in the circular economy, and in fact poison the circular economy.

Material Research L3C has launched an interactive website, materialresearch.world, which features a Global Atlas of toxic chemical production facilities and links to groundbreaking reports about them.

Founded in 2019, Material Research works with reporters, NGOs and community leaders to fill gaps in understanding toxic and unjust supply chains.

“Our mission is to gather and deliver information that unites communities around the world against toxic pollution and other injustices,” said Jim Vallette, president of the charitable and educational “low-profit” (L3C) company based in Southwest Harbor, Maine.

The Material Research Atlas of Toxic Chemical Manufacturing identifies 465 factories that it has investigated with its partners. For U.S. facilities, it provides links to greenhouse gas, toxic chemical and other EPA records and related reports.  Material Research developed the Atlas with the support of the Geographic Information Systems Laboratory at College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine.

Vallette has noted that the Atlas is a precursor to a larger open access data initiative under development by the company and other partners.

Material Research World also features a Resources page, with links to dozens of reports by leading environmental and human rights organizations and news outlets.

The Changing Markets Foundation has published 6 reports that together reveal the interconnections between fast-fashion, fossil fuels, plastics, injustice, and pollution. The reports include:

  • Synthetics Anonymous 2.0: Fashion’s persistent plastic problem (December 2022)
  • Dressed to Kill: Fashion brands’ hidden links to Russian oil in a time of war (November 2022)
  • Licence to Greenwash: How certification schemes and voluntary initiatives are fuelling fossil fashion (March 2022)
  • A New Look for the Fashion Industry: EU Textile Strategy and the Crucial Role of Extended Producer Responsibility (March 2022)
  • Synthetics Anonymous: fashion brands’ addiction to fossil fuels (June 2021)
  • Fossil fashion: the hidden reliance of fast fashion on fossil fuels (February 2022)