The Homeless Romantic Podcast
The Homeless Romantic Podcast
Dr. Thava Palanisami | Are We Really Eating Microplastics? | #159 HR

Dr. Thava Palanisami discusses the presence and potential risks of microplastics in our environment and diets. He highlights the need for responsible plastic disposal and the development of viable alternatives. He emphasizes the pervasiveness of plastics, their breakdown into smaller particles known as microplastics, and their potential toxicity.

Dr. Palanisami discusses the importance of understanding the impact of microplastics on our health, particularly for vulnerable groups, and calls for research on the effects of plastic exposure. He also discusses the challenges in measuring plastics in environmental and human samples and highlights the development of technology to remove microplastics from water.


Dr. Thava Palanisami is an Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia. He completed his PhD in Risk assessment and Remediation of mixed contaminants in 2010 at the University of South Australia.

His doctoral research challenged the assumption that contaminants in contaminated sites occur as single entities, demonstrating that they often exist as mixtures. He focused on long-term contaminated soils and showed that mixtures of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and metals are more toxic and bioavailable compared to individual contaminants.

After his PhD, Dr. Palanisami took a post-doctoral position where he worked on translating fundamental research into field-level remediation technologies for mixed contaminated sites. He played a significant role in developing and implementing cost-effective, innovative, and environmentally friendly remediation technologies for chemical contamination in mine sites.

He and his team led the first-ever field-level implementation of a Risk-Based Land Management (RBLM) approach to managing contaminated sites in Australia, which had implications for the paradigm shift in risk assessment and management of contaminated soils.

Over the past ten years, Dr. Palanisami has expanded his research focus to include contaminant transformation products (CTPs). These CTPs, which are often more bioavailable and toxic than the parent chemicals, are not well understood.

His research involves tracking these transformation products through the environment and their impact on human health using in vitro and in vivo tools. Recently, his research has focused on the risk assessment and remediation of emerging contaminants such as microplastics and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).

Dr. Palanisami’s team initiated research on microplastics in 2015, aiming to understand the ageing and weathering processes of microplastics in the environment to improve ecological and human health risk assessment. His team is currently working on 12 different research topics to address knowledge gaps, and they have developed remediation technologies in collaboration with industry partners.

In addition to his research, Dr. Palanisami has been actively engaged with industry and has established key national and international collaborations. He has secured significant industry funding and mentors his PhD students to become independent leaders and industry-ready scientists. He also recruits research degree students, connecting them with relevant industries and external bodies to help develop their careers beyond the PhD.

0:00 Intro
1:00 Academic Journey
3:00 Newest Study
5:00 Disposable Plastics
9:00 Recycling
10:00 Plastic Alternatives
12:00 Finding Plastic in Your Food
15:00 Plastics in the Water Supply
20:00 Everyone Eats Some Amount of Plastics
23:00 Plastic Fruit Stickers
25:00 How We Look For Microplastics
28:00 Nanoplastics
30:00 Outro

John Waters | Legendary Film Maker

A Conversation with Cory Doctorow | Author, Journalist & Activist #155 HR

Gautam Kamath | ChatGPT and Machine Learning | #110 HR Podcast

Bill Ayers | Anarchism & Socialism | Weathermen Underground | #98 HR

Rex Weyler | The Contracting of Humanity | Co-Founder of Greenpeace #152 HR
The Homeless Romantic Podcast