The potential effects of microplastics on human health: What is known and what is unknown
journal contributionposted on 2023-08-30, 19:04 authored by Kirsty J. Blackburn, Dannielle S. Green
Microplastic contamination is ubiquitous in aquatic and terrestrial environments, found in water, sediments, within organisms and in the atmosphere and the biological effects on animal and plant life have been extensively investigated in recent years. There is growing evidence that humans are exposed to microplastics via ingestion of food and drink and through inhalation. Despite the prevalence of contamination, there has been limited research on the effects of microplastics on human health and most studies, to date, analyse the effects on model organisms with the likely impacts on human health being inferred by extrapolation. This review summarises the latest findings in the field with respect to the prevalence of microplastics in the human–environment, to what extent they might enter and persist in the body, and what effect, if any, they are likely to have on human health. Whilst definitive evidence linking microplastic consumption to human health is currently lacking, results from correlative studies in people exposed to high concentrations of microplastics, model animal and cell culture experiments, suggest that effects of microplastics could include provoking immune and stress responses and inducing reproductive and developmental toxicity. Further research is required to explore the potential implications of this recent contaminant in our environment in more rigorous clinical studies.
Publication titleAmbio: A Journal of Environment and Society
- Accepted version