The director of an environmental charity will set sail on Sunday on a pioneering Atlantic voyage to highlight toxic pollution.

Laura Coleman, the director of Brighton-based ONCA, is one of 14 women to take part in eXXpedition, an all-female voyage and long-term engagement programme that explores the unseen chemicals inside our own bodies and inside the seas.

In the first of a series of expeditions, they will spend two weeks on board marine conservation organisation Pangaea Exploration’s 72ft research sailing vessel Sea Dragon sailing from Lanzarote to Martinique.

Laura will join skipper Emily Penn, world-renowned ocean’s advocate and the youngest person, and first woman, to be awarded Yachtmaster of the Year, and Lucy Gilliam, environmental scientist and director of New Dawn Traders, a partnership of artists, scientists and chefs re-imagining global trade by sail, and other high-profile and inspiring female role models in fields such as exploration, science, technology, enterprise and the arts. During the trip, the crew members will take part in research, start a dialogue about the plastics, chemicals, endocrine disruptors and carcinogens in the environment, and trawl for evidence of plastics in the ocean. Ahead of the trip, all the women on the crew have had their blood serum sampled for contamination, to assess personal exposure to toxic substances. With scientists estimating that everyone carries at least 700 contaminants within their bodies, most of which have not been well studied, the analysis will be carried out by Anna Kärrman of MTM Research Centre at Örebro University in Sweden and form part of a database collected for the Safe Planet campaign. The crew will find out the results of their individual blood samples shortly before setting sail.

Laura said: “The long-term change we want to achieve is to inspire women to value themselves and their environment through the choices they make and the products they buy.

“We aim to make audiences aware of the links between chemical pollutants, buried within our daily environment, and rising rates of illnesses such as breast cancer.

“We hope to provide young women with the opportunity to learn about and discover these issues, thus working towards a sustained and long-term change in widespread attitudes towards the female body and the health of our planet.”

Part of the aim of eXXpedition is to change what it calls “a lack of diversity in gender and race role models in both STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) professions and in exploration/sports events”.