My 2022 research project, under the guidance of Dr. James Truncer, studies how single-use plastic waste that has accumulated in water sources results in the ingestion of micro-plastics, and how the effects are disproportionately borne by vulnerable, underserved communities.

Photo by David Nunuk and MDPI


Whereas multiple studies have been conducted on the harmful effects of ingesting microplastics, this paper illustrates how microplastics originating from single-use plastics disproportionately affect vulnerable communities. This paper focuses specifically on single-use plastics because they make up over half of the massive growth in plastic production since the 1970s, which now exceeds 400 million tons per year. Single-use plastics are derived from fossil fuels and crude oil and contain chemicals that pose a threat to human health. When improperly disposed of, single-use plastic degrades into toxic microplastics that can enter the human body through drinking water, resulting in damage to various organs and overall health. As of today, billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by such microplastics. This issue particularly affects low-income regions and people with marginalized identities, communities that often lack the infrastructure to mitigate plastic pollution. Methods such as sanitary landfills, increased recycling capacity, and proper management and disposal of waste systems can help prevent the negative health outcomes that manifest themselves first within the most underserved communities. As single-use microplastic pollution grows increasingly ubiquitous across the world, global ecosystems are being disrupted and destroyed. Understanding the comparative risks to vulnerable populations is critical for developing effective and equitable strategies for responding to plastic pollution.


  • Horizon Academic Research Journal Volume 3, No. 2 2023 (abridged version)

Virginia Governor's School of Agriculture 2023

Within this 4-week intensive research program, I worked with a group of fellow students and conducted research on how poor water quality contributes to the incidence food-borne illnesses. We specifically investigated human health and food safety on the micro and macro level. Our research culminated in the production of a 29-page paper, research poster (see right), infographic, and presentation to a judge panel.