Health risk associated with plastic debris on the Island of Zanzibar: – Importance of associated pathogenic bacteria and implications for local communities

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearch


Several studies have indicated that pathogenic bacteria bind particularly strongly to plastic pollution particles. This implies that plastic debris might serve as a vector for spreading of diseases with subsequent consequences for human health in polluted areas. In areas where (especially) poor people gather plastic waste to sustain a living for their family, and pathogens such as Vibrio cholerae are present, the plastic
pollution paticles can be a vector for spreading disease among the local population. This potential human health risk of plastic pollution provides a substantial challenge, since there is a need to conduct mitigation efforts to preserve the environment and the ecosystem services it provides, and at the same time avoid enhanced risk of Cholera or other pathogenic bacteria such as pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli. Zanzibar is a pefect setting for this “one health” research project, as it features recurrent Cholera outbreaks as well as significant documented problems with plastic pollution and thus serve as a good area for a case study of this potential widespread problem. This project simultaneously aims to assess the risk of human health from plastic-associated pathogens to the local population in an epidemiological context and subsequently facilitate development of safe and effective mitigation efforts. This will be done by collecting plastic debris particles in relavant locations in Zanzibar and analysing which pathogens that are associated with the particles. The exposure to local communities will subsequently be assessed by interview and observation studies aiming at understanding how the local community is physically interacting with the debris under clean up operations. Upon having quantified the risk to the human population, we will seek to collaborate with the local community on educational campaigns about these risks, and to building the nessesary local infrastruture to handle the plastic pollution in a sustainable manner. This way the project aims at ensuring proper environmental protection and at the same time reducing health risk posed to the local community.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventTransforming for Sustainability - UN City, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 28 Nov 201829 Nov 2018


ConferenceTransforming for Sustainability
LocationUN City
OtherThe Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) unites all aspects of sustainable development: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. To support this development, there is a need for interdisciplinary research with dual impact.<br/><br/>The conference “Transforming for Sustainability” strives to explore a broad range of perspectives from private and public organizations as well as academic research concerning the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Moreover, it seeks to create an inclusive community of researchers, private and public organizations from Denmark and abroad as well as promote interdisciplinary solutions to the SDGs
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