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Professor Kang Jun-won’s Research Team of Dongkuk University Finds New Microplastic Hazards

Date 2024.03.18. Writer 허선이 Hits 154

Published in ‘Water Research,’ the top academic journal in the field of water resources


[Jeong-hwan Lee, University News Network] The Dongguk University (President Yoon Jae-woong) Department of Food and Biotechnology Professor Kang Jun-won's research team (master's student Im Ji-hwan (first author), Professor Kang Jun-won (corresponding author)) discovered new hazardous elements that can come from microplastics.

Microplastics 5mm or less in diameter are widely distributed around us and enter the human body through various routes. Ingestion through food is considered the main exposure route.




Professor Kang Jun-won (Left), Master’s Student Im Ji-hwan (First Author)

▲ Professor Kang Jun-won (Left), Master’s Student Im Ji-hwan (First Author)


It is widely known that microplastics that enter the human body can accumulate in tissue and organs and cause direct harm to human health. Meanwhile, it has recently been suggested that microplastics can also serve as a carrier for various contaminants, which means that microplastics can also indirectly adversely affect the body. However, studies have focused only on the direct effects of microplastics, and no study has evaluated these indirect risks.

Professor Kang Jun-won's research team evaluated the risk factors that could occur indirectly by attaching food-poisoning bacteria (vibrio parahaemolyticus) to five types of microplastics (LDPE, HDPE, PET, PP, and PS). The team found that food-poisoning bacteria form a biofilm, increasing resistance to food processing conditions and gastric acid after ingestion and increasing the expression of toxic genes that cause food poisoning when attached to microplastics. In addition, the team observed that these risk factors increase even further when microplastics are exposed to environments such as sunlight and age. These findings suggest that the direct risk factors that microplastics in food pose to the human body and the indirect risk factors that can be caused by food poisoning bacteria require a thorough evaluation through further studies.

“The research holds significance as it presents new microplastic hazards,” said Professor Kang Jun-won, “We hope that it will contribute to managing microplastics, which threaten food safety and public health, more systematically.”

This study was published in〈Water Research〉 (IF=12.8, JCR top 0.5% (No. 1 in the field)), the journal with the highest authority in the water resources field, under the title 'Assessing biofilm formation and resistance of vibrio parahaemolyticus on UV-aged microplastics in aquatic environments.'