ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Microplastics in Seafood and the Implications for Human Health


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Purpose of Review We describe evidence regarding human exposure to microplastics via seafood and discuss potential health effects. Recent Findings Shellfish and other animals consumed whole pose particular concern for human exposure. If there is toxicity, it is likely dependent on dose, polymer type, size, surface chemistry, and hydrophobicity. Summary Human activity has led to microplastic contamination throughout the marine environment. As a result of widespread contamination, microplastics are ingested by many species of wildlife including fish and shellfish. Because microplastics are associated with chemicals from manufacturing and that sorb from the surrounding environment, there is concern regarding physical and chemical toxicity. Evidence regarding microplastic toxicity and epidemiology is emerging. We characterize current knowledge and highlight gaps. We also recommend mitigation and adaptation strategies targeting the life cycle of microplastics and recommend future research to assess impacts of microplastics on humans. Addressing these research gaps is a critical priority due to the nutritional importance of seafood consumption.
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Microplastics in Seafood and the Implications for Human Health
Madeleine Smith
&David C. Love
&Chelsea M. Rochman
&Roni A. Neff
Published online: 16 August 2018
#The Author(s) 2018
Purpose of Review We describe evidence regarding human exposure to microplastics via seafood and discuss potential health
Recent Findings Shellfish and other animals consumed whole pose particular concern for human exposure. If there is toxicity, it
is likely dependent on dose, polymer type, size, surface chemistry, and hydrophobicity.
Summary Human activity has led to microplastic contamination throughout the marine environment. As a result of widespread
contamination, microplastics are ingested by many species of wildlife including fish and shellfish. Because microplastics are
associated with chemicals from manufacturing and that sorb from the surrounding environment, there is concern regarding
physical and chemical toxicity. Evidence regarding microplastic toxicity and epidemiology is emerging. We characterize current
knowledge and highlight gaps. We also recommend mitigation and adaptation strategies targeting the life cycle of microplastics
and recommend future research to assess impacts of microplastics on humans. Addressing these research gaps is a critical priority
due to the nutritional importance of seafood consumption.
Keywords Microplastics .Toxicology .Ocean .Seafood .Fish .Human health impacts
Since the 1960s, plastic production has increased by approx-
imately 8.7% annually, evolving into a $600 billion global
industry [1,2]. Approximately eight million metric tons of
plastics enter the oceans annually [2], and conservative esti-
mates suggest 5.25 trillion plastic particles currently circulate
in ocean surface waters [3]. While some plastics enter oceans
from maritime operations, 80% is suspected to originate from
land-based sources [1]. Discarded plastic materials enter the
marine environment as trash, industrial discharge, or litter
through inland waterways, wastewater outflows, and transport
by winds or tides [4]. Waste generation and waste leakage are
inextricably linked and proportionally associated with eco-
nomic development, local infrastructure, and legislation.
Today, uncollected waste accounts for 75% of these land-
based discharges, while the remaining 25% comes from with-
in the waste management system [4].
When plastics enter the ocean, the rate of degradation and
persistence of plastics varies by polymer, shape, density, and
the purpose of the plastic itself [3]. These characteristics also
govern where in the water column plastics may be found. For
example, more buoyant plastics are more likely to be carried
by ocean currents and wind across the environment [3].
Additionally, when plastics are exposed to natural forces like
sunlight and wave action, plastics will degrade into
microplasticsdefined as plastic particles under 5 mm in size.
This definition commonly includes plastic pieces in the nano-
scale, < 1 μm in size. The extent of plastic degradation de-
pends on factors including polymer type, age, and environ-
mental conditions like weathering, temperature, irradiation,
and pH [5]. Over time, plastic particles contaminate the ma-
rine ecosystem and the food chain, including foodstuffs
intended for human consumption [6]. In vivo studies have
This article is part of the Topical Collection on Food, Health, and the
*Roni A. Neff
Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, Bloomberg
School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD,
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Bloomberg School of
Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 615 N. Wolfe St., W7010,
Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of
Toront o, Toronto, O N, Canada
Current Environmental Health Reports (2018) 5:375386
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demonstrated that nanoplastics can translocate to all organs
[6]. Evidence is evolving regarding relationships between
micro- and nanoplastic exposure, toxicology, and human
Nutritional authorities advise Americans to double their
seafood consumption; however, awareness or concerns about
microplastics in seafood could lead consumers to reduce their
consumption. Research to understand and reduce human
health risks is critical in order to simultaneously protect con-
sumers and support their nutritional health.
This review begins with a background on microplastics,
ocean dispersal, physical and chemical properties, and degra-
dation. Where relevant, we provide information about
nanoplastics. We then explore the life cycle of microplastics
including their toxicity and epidemiology in humans and an-
imals, strategies for mitigation and adaptation, and research
We conducted an unstructured literature review using
PubMed, Google Scholar, Natures database, and Science
Direct, focused on literature published after 2004 (the year
the term, microplastic,was introduced). We employed the
following keywords: microplastics, microdebris, primary
microplastics, secondary microplastics, nanoplastics, pellets,
marine debris and plastics, microbeads, marine biota, food
web, harmful effects, environmental policies, and industry.
These sites were searched until saturation occurred. Websites
of organizations with interest in this topic were also explored:
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and The Group of
Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental
Protection (GESAMP) of the United Nations, European
Food Safety Authority (EFSA), United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA). The resultant articles were organized and synthe-
sized into an overview describing the current state of the sci-
ence. Insights from this review were used to identify recom-
mendations for future research and mitigation.
Background on Microplastics
Sources and Distribution
In the marine environment, microplastics are a heterogeneous
group of particles (< 5 mm), varying in size, shape, and chem-
ical composition. They are found in sediment, on the sea sur-
face, in the water column, and in wildlife [7,8]. Table 1de-
scribes the most common plastic polymer types in the marine
environment. Of these, the most common plastic types
manufactured are polyethylene and polypropylene [7].
Microplastics are often categorized into primary and sec-
ondary types. Primary microplastics were originally produced
to be < 5 mm in size, while secondary microplastics result
from the breakdown of larger items. Microbeads in personal
care products are an example of primary microplastics [9].
While they are now being phased out globally, in 2015, an
estimated eight billion microbeads were released into aquatic
habitats from the USA daily [10]. Other sources of primary
microplastics include industrial abrasives and pre-production
plastic pellets used to make larger plastic items. Sources of
secondary microplastics include microfibers from textiles, tire
dust, and larger plastic items that degrade and, consequently,
fragment intomicroplastic particles, mostly due to weathering
degradation [11]. Even if humans halted plastic production
and prevented plastic waste dumping, marine microplastics
would continue to increase as larger plastic litter degrades into
secondary microplastics [9].
Physical and Chemical Properties
Microplastics in the marine environment are typically found
as pellets, fragments, or fibers and are composed of diverse
polymers [12], some denser than seawater and expected to
sink to the seafloor. These include polyamide, polyester, po-
lymerizing vinyl chloride (PVC), and acrylic, among others.
Others are lighter than seawater and are often found floating at
the surface, including polyethylene, polypropylene, and
Plastic products are composed of monomers joined to make
the polymer structure and additive chemicals. During produc-
tion, plastic is processed with additives to provide specific
properties [13]. Several thousand distinct additives are used,
including plasticizers, flame retardants, pigments, antimicro-
bial agents, heat stabilizers, UV stabilizers, fillers, and flame
retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
[13,14••,15]. Additives account for approximately 4% of the
weight of microplastics [14••]. Once created, plastic polymers
are described as non-toxic because they are not reactive and
generally cannot easily transport across biological membranes
due to their size [16]. However, non-polymeric substances,
like chemical additives or residual monomers, can be hazard-
ous to human health and the environment when they leach
from the plastic polymer matrix [6]. As plastics progressively
degrade, the surface area to volume ratio increases and addi-
tive chemicals are expected to leach [17]. Leached chemicals
may bioaccumulate in animals from seawater [17]. For organ-
isms that have directly ingested microplastics, the uptake rate
of additive chemicals by an organismgastrointestinal tract is
primarily influenced by the chemical fugacity gradient be-
tween the organismstissues and the plastic, the gut retention
376 Curr Envir Health Rpt (2018) 5:375386
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time of the microplastics, and the material-specific kinetic
factors [18].
In addition to additive chemicals being associated with
plastic debris, microplastics in the ocean accumulate persistent
organic pollutants (POPs) such as polychlorinated biphenyls
(PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and or-
ganochlorine pesticides like dichlorodiphynyltrichloroethane
(DDT) or hexachlorobenzene (HCB) from the water [18,19].
These have a greater affinity for plastic than water, and con-
centrations on microplastics are orders of magnitude greater
than in surrounding water [19,20]. PBDEs are human-made
flame-retardant chemicals. PBDEs enter the marine environ-
ment mainly via discarded or leaked consumer goods or mu-
nicipal waste. Plastic deposited on beaches from the marine
environment have been found to contain from 0.03 to 50 ng/g
PBDE [17].
The global distribution of chemicals in the marine environ-
ment may affect environmental and human health, but
microplastics do not represent the only exposure pathway. In
fact, microplastics may represent a relatively small contributor
to the total risk as there are many other sources for chemical
exposure [18]. For example, the total dietary intake of PCBs
from microplastics is likely minimal compared to that from
other sources, as identified in Table 2[6]. For other chemicals,
such as bisphenol A (BPA) or PBDEs, sources of exposure
may be limited to or originate from microplastic degradation.
Degradation of Marine Plastics
Plastic is persistent in the marine environment because it is
manufactured to be durable. Still, plastic polymers can be
degraded slowly by microorganisms (e.g., Bacillus cereus,
Micrococcus sp., or Corynebacterium), heat, oxidation, light,
or hydrolysis, as identified in Table 3. The rate and extent of
plastic degradation are determined by the environmental var-
iables present.
Microplastics in the Food Chain
Exposure to Microplastics by Marine Animals
A 2016 UN report documented over 800 animal species con-
taminated with plastic via ingestion or entanglementafigure
69% greater than that reported in a 1977 review, which esti-
mated only 247 contaminated species [21,22]. Of these 800
species, 220 have been found to ingest microplastic debris in
natura [6].
Plastic ingestion occurs across taxa within different trophic
levels, including marine mammals, fish, invertebrates, and
fish-eating birds [8,9]. Plastic particles are often found con-
centrated in an organisms digestive tract during carcass dis-
section and laboratory research. With preference to smaller
particles, micro- and nanoplastics can persist in the animals
body [6,9,11,22,23] and translocate from the intestinal tract
to the circulatory system or surrounding tissue [6].
Human Exposure Pathways
microplastic exposure. As of 2015, global seafood intake rep-
resented 6.7% of all protein consumed and approximately
17% of animal protein consumption [24]. Global per capita
seafood consumption is over 20 kg/year; in the USA, it is 7 kg
annually [25]. Global seafood trade in 2016 was $132.6 bil-
lion, and over 90% of US seafood was imported from geo-
graphic regions with significant waste leakage and pelagic
plastic pollution [6]. Roughly half of seafood is farmed (e.g.,
aquaculture) and half is wild-caught. It is possible to control
environmental conditions in aquacultureby raising animals
in ponds, tanks, or selected water bodiesand animals gen-
erally have shorter lifespans in aquaculture than in the wild,
which could provide less opportunities and time for
microplastic exposure and uptake. Due to few studies, there
Table 1 Common application of
plastic found in the marine
environment and the frequency of
polymer type identified in 42
studies of microplastic debris
sampled at sea or in marine
Plastic resin type (acronym) Application Percent of studies
(n) that identified
specific polymers
Polyethylene, high-density (PE-HD) Milk and juice jugs 79 (33)
Polyethylene, low-density (PE-LD) Plastic bag, six pack rings, bottles,
netting, and drinking straws
Polypropylene (PP) Rope, bottle caps, and netting 64 (27)
Polystyrene (PS) Plastic utensils, food containers 33 (17)
Polyamide (PA) Nylon fabric 17 (7)
Polyester (PES) Polyester fabric 10 (4)
Polyvinylchloride (PVC) Film, containers and pipes 5 (2)
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) Plastic beverage bottles 2 (1)
Adapted from [9,10]
Curr Envir Health Rpt (2018) 5:375386 377
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is uncertainty about the differences in microplastics for farmed
and wild fish and shellfish.
Because of their small size, microplastics can be ingested
by a wide variety of marine organisms. Ingestion may be
direct or indirect via trophic transfer (e.g., up the food web).
Microplastic ingestion has been documented in planktonic
organisms and larvae at the bottom of the food chain
[2528], in small and large invertebrates [6,7,11,29,22]
and in fish [6]. Trophic transfer of microplastics was observed
in the predatory Crucian carps [30].
Microplastics are found in many species intended for hu-
man consumption including invertebrates, crustaceans, and
fish [23,31]. Plastic particles are often found concentrated
in an organismsdigestive tracts such that bivalves and small
fish consumed whole are more likely to expose microplastics
to the human diet [9]. For example, Fig. 1illustrates move-
ment of plastic from bivalve mollusks to the human diet. Van
Cauwenberghe and Janssen [23] found farmed mussels had
significantly higher microplastic concentrations (178
microfibers) than wild-caught mussels (126 microfibers)
[23]. Additionally, Rochman et al. identified the presence of
microplastics (> 500 μm) in commercially sold, wild-caught
fish from markets in Makassar, Indonesia (28% of fish proc-
essed contained microplastics), and California, USA (25% of
commercial fish processed contained microplastics) [31].
Karami et al. investigated the potential presence of
microplastics in dried fish tissue: excised organs (viscera and
gills) and eviscerated flesh (whole fish, excluding the viscera
and gills) [32]. In four of 30 commonly consumed dried fish
species, 36 of 61 isolated foreign particles were identified as
Table 2 Comparing the estimated total dietary exposure to contaminants and additives directly from microplastics in seafood
Compound Highest concentration
in microplastics
Calculated intake from
microplastics (pg/kg bw/day)
Total intake from the
diet (pg/kg bw/day)
Ratio intake microplastic/total
dietary intake (pg/kg bw/day) (%)
Non-dioxin like PCBs 2970 0.3 ––
EFSA, 2012 –– 4300
JECFA, 2016 –– 1000
PAHs 44,800 4.5 ––
EFSA, 2008 –– 28,800
JECFA, 2006 –– 4000
DDT 2100 0.2 ––
EFSA, 2006 –– 5000
JECFA, 1960 –– 100,000,000
Bisphenol A 200 0.02
EFSA, 2015a –– 130,000
FAO/WHO, 2011 –– 400,000
PBDEs 50 0.005 ––
EFSA, 2011 –– 700
JECFA, 2006 –– 185
NP 2500 0.3 NA
OP 50 0.005 NA
Reproduced with permission from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2017) and Lusher et al. [6]
PCBs polychlorinated biphenyls, PA H s polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, DDT dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, PBDEs polybrominated diphenyl
ethers, NP nonylphenol, OP octylphenol
Lowest intake of six indicators of non-dioxin like PCBs, representing about 50% of all non-dioxin like PCBs
Median intake (EFSA, 2008)
Mean intake of benzo[a]pyrene (JECFA)
Lowest intake, DDT, and related compounds (EFSA, 2006)
Average intake adults (EFSA, 2015a)
Lowest intake FAO/WHO
Lowest intake, sum of BDE-47, BDE-209, BDE-153, and BDE-154 (EFSA, 2011)
Lowest intake JECFA
NA: dietary intake not available from EFSA or JECFA
Provisional tolerable daily intake (JECFA)
378 Curr Envir Health Rpt (2018) 5:375386
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plastic polymers [32]. In young and adult fish, Yifeng et al.
demonstrated microplastic particle translocation from diges-
tive tracts to the gills and liver of zebra fish (Danio rerio), a
common prey fish [33]. Microplastic particle translocation is
also documented in European seabass and the common goby
(Pomatoschistus microps)[34]. Together, these studies dem-
onstrate the presence of microplastics, not the chemical con-
stituents, in some seafood and indicate that the challenge
could be widespread due to ubiquity in the environment and
translocation potentially moving particles to animal parts typ-
ically eaten by humans.
Because water and salt are often extracted from the natural
world, researchers investigated whether products made with
these ingredients were also contaminated with nano- and
microplastics. They investigated and found microplastics in
beer [35], honey [36], and sea salt [37]. While the origin of
these contaminants is uncertain, potential sources include at-
mospheric emission and uptake of microplastics by the basic
components of the food products, impurities introduced by
processing materials, and the contaminants present in packag-
ing [35]. Increasingly, scientific evidence outlines multiple
pathways of microplastic exposure via food including
Because they filter water, bivalves (such as mussels, oysters, clams and
others) can absorb and excrete microplastic present in the sea water
where they are cultivated
After harvesting, shellfish are usually kept in clean water to get rid of
contaminants. The shellfish expel some microplastics, while others remain
inside, reach the market and end up on the consumer’s plate
Sea water inhaled
Water exhaled
Sea water inhaled
Water exhaled
An example of how microplastics could end up on a consumer's plate
Sources: Tjärnö Marine Biological Laboratory, Strömstad, Sweden; personal communication with Dr. Sarah Dudas
Fig. 1 An example of how microplastics could end up on a consumers plate (Reproduced with permission from Maphoto/Riccardo Pravettoni;
originally published by Marine Litter GRID-ADRENAL, available at
Table 3 Explanation of
degradation processes [10]Degradation process Explanation
Biodegradation Decomposition of organic materials by microorganisms
Photo degradation Action of light or photons, usually sunlight (UVA or greater, >320 nm)
Thermooxidative degradation Slow oxidative, molecular deterioration at moderate temperatures
Thermal degradation High temperature cause molecular deterioration
(not an environmental mechanism)
Hydrolysis Reaction with water
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evidence that microplastics are present in species which con-
tribute to global marine fisheries [6]. Accordingly,
International scientific committees such as the Joint FAO/
WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has
not evaluated the food safety concern posed by microplastics
[6]; however, state-level environmental protection agencies
have begun assessing the public health implications of
microplastics and nanoplastics [38].
Human health effects depend on exposure concentrations.
Due to data gaps in microplastic research, there is insufficient
information to assess the true amount of microplastics humans
may be exposed to via food. Researchers have predicted that
the total microplastic intake from salts is at most 37 particles
per individual annually [37]. Researchers have also estimated
that a top European shellfish consumer eats approximately
11,000 plastic particles annually [23,32,37]. The implications
are unknown.
Microplastic exposure also can confer exposure to associ-
ated chemicals. Few studies have assessed the relative contri-
bution of microplastic exposure to additives or chemicals
found in organisms, versus alternative exposure pathways
[39]. The EFSA monitors six indicators for non-dioxin-like
PCBs in food to assess average total dietary exposure to
PCBs. While the portion of exposure from microplastics is
unknown, fish, meat, and dairy contribute the greatest dietary
exposure to PCBs, demonstrating a route of persistent expo-
sure to animal tissue and trophic level transfer [40]. It was
determined that total dietary PCB intake ranged from 1 to
83 ng PCB/kg bodyweight (bw) per day [41]. The average
dietary intake of PAHs, using benzo[a]pyrene as the reference
marker, ranged from 4 to 10 ng/kg b.w. per day [41].
The US FDA residue limit for PCBs in fish and shellfish is
0.2 ppm for infants and juniors and 2 ppm for adults, corre-
sponding to developmental effects, hormonal disruption, im-
mune system, thyroid effects, and cancer [40]. The FDA has
not established a limit governing the concentration of PAH
content in foodstuffs [42]. In animals, the US Environmental
Protection Agency has identified a reference dose for oral
benzo(a)pyrene exposure, the most studied PAH, at
0.0003 mg/kg/day [42]. The oral reference dose applies
to food and water and estimates the concentration at
which adverse effects on human health are known to
occur. Additional studies are needed to understand the
biological processes influencing the release of chemicals
associated with microplastic ingestion, and all routes of
chemical exposure [43].
Today, evidence is mounting suggesting that microplastic
ingestion or its associated chemicals pose a threat to marine
animals [9,14••,31]. Understanding whether microplastic
exposures impact human health requires standardized and re-
producible methods for sampling, exposure characterization,
ecologicalassessment, and human health assessment. There is
no standard operating procedure for sampling occurring on
beaches, in subtidal sediments, in biota, or within the water
Toxicity to Humans
Microplastics may cause harm to humans via both physical
and chemical pathways. While it is not possible to completely
disentangle these, we separate them for the purpose of this
Potential Physical Effects of Microplastics
Microplastics are ubiquitous in the marine environment and
are increasingly contaminating species in the marine environ-
ment. Given levels of seafood consumption worldwide, it is
inevitable that humans are exposed to microplastics at some
level. The human bodys excretory system eliminates
microplastics, likely disposing of > 90% of ingested micro-
and nanoplastic via feces [14••,44]. Factors affecting reten-
tion and clearance rates are the size, shape, polymer type, and
additive chemicals of microplastics ingested by humans [6].
The severity of adverse effects resulting from exposures de-
pends on the nature of the toxic chemical, exposure character-
istics, individual susceptibility, and hazardcontrols. The phys-
ical effects of accumulated microplastics are less understood
than the distribution and storage of toxicants in the human
body, but preliminary research has demonstrated several po-
tentially concerning impacts, including enhanced inflammato-
ry response, size-related toxicity of plastic particles, chemical
transfer of adsorbed chemical pollutants, and disruption of the
gut microbiome [44].
Surface functional groups, size, shape, surface charge,
buoyancy, and hydrophobicity predict microplastic uptake
[45]. Mammalian systems modeling suggests that
microplastics with certain characteristics can translocate
across living cells, such as M cells or dendritic cells, to the
lymphatic and/or circulatory system, accumulate in secondary
organs, and impact the immune system and cell health [14••,
43,4551]. Microplastics may contact the airway or gastroin-
testinal epithelium demonstrating several routes of uptake and
translocation, such as endocytic pathways and persorption
[44]. Medical literature related to the impact of micro- and
nanoplastics originating from surgical procedures and inhala-
tion provides insight into the kinetic movement of plastics in
humans [6]. For example, micro- and nanoplastics released
from surgical materials mimic the effects of absorbed particles
in the bloodstream and tissue [6], while inhaled particles in-
teract with the same type of epithelial tissue as that involved
during ingestion. For example, microbes colonized on the
surface of ingested microplastics may serve as a vector of
harmful bacteria when ingested, potentially resulting in direct
380 Curr Envir Health Rpt (2018) 5:375386
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physiological effects (nutritional, toxicological, immunologi-
cal, or developmental) on marine animals. Wright and Kelly
predict that ingested microplastics may cause inflammation in
tissue, cellular proliferation, and necrosis and may compro-
mise immune cells [44]. While laboratory research has dem-
onstrated that plastic microspheres ingested by blue crabs
(Callinectes sapidus) stimulate hemocyte aggregation and re-
duce their respiratory function [52]. Moreover, after ingesting
microspheres, blue mussels experienced an immune response
and the formation of granulomas [53]. The Japanese medaka
(Oryzias latipes) experienced hepatic stress after ingesting
virgin polyethylene fragments [54]. Factors influencing the
biological and ecological impact of microplastics include
presence, sizes, and frequency of engagement between bio-
ta-microplastics. More research is needed to further inform
a risk assessment of the impact of microplastics on sea-
food and consequently human health. It would be valu-
able to conduct a risk analysis monitoring microplastics
and the related chemical concentrations in seafood, partic-
ularly shellfish to identify the potential biological conse-
quences of microplastic exposure. Additionally, in this
stage, it is important to monitor consumer consumption
rates of seafood, particularly bivalves. This information
will inform a risk evaluation and management or mitiga-
tion strategies connecting sources and drivers of
microplastic pollution. This approach integrates a systems
perspective that employs precautionary measures to re-
duce the threat of harm posed by microplastics to the
environment and to humans given present uncertainty.
Nanoplastic movement provides insight into the move-
ment and potential effects of non-degradable particles in
the human body. The potential health risks of micro- and
nanoplastics could be evaluated similar to those of
engineered nanoparticles [14••]. Following oral exposure,
nanoplastics are transported by M cells, specialized epi-
thelial cells of the mucosa, from the gut into the blood
where they are carried through the lymphatic system and
into the liver and gall bladder [55]. Their size and hydro-
phobicity enable their passage through the placenta and
blood-brain barrier and into the gastrointestinal tract and
lungs, potential sites for harm to occur [56]. Their large
surface area to volume ratio makes them potentially very
chemically reactive, more so than some microplastics.
Research studies have demonstrated toxicity in vitro to
lung cells, liver, and brain cells [9]. The systemic distri-
bution from oral exposure to nanoparticles has been
shown to have numerous effects: cardiopulmonary re-
sponses, alterations of endogenous metabolites,
genotoxicity, inflammatory responses, oxidative stress, ef-
fects on nutrient absorption, gut microflora, and reproduc-
tion [14••,36,46]. Parallel research into nanoparticle
movement and toxicity provides insight into threats posed
by microplastics and nanoplastics.
Potential Effects of Chemical Additives
Chemical additives in plastic may cause toxic effects.
Moreover, the ability for microplastics to accumulate POPs
raises concern that microplastics could transfer hazardous
POPs to marine animals and subsequently humans [6].
Chemical partitioning between microplastics and animal
tissue is a dynamic process; there are few studies that
model variables and mechanisms like bioaccumulation,
kinetics, and the physicochemical properties of marine
microplastics [57].
Direct exposures to POPs and other chemicals associated
with microplastics may affect biological systems and pose
specific threats to juvenile humans and animals, including at
low doses [9,40]. Current guidelines for toxicity testing of
chemical components use high contaminant concentrations
from a single substance to estimate risk at lower exposure
levels or to make low-dose extrapolations. This method fails
to capture concerns related to low-dose contaminants or mixed
groups of contaminants. Additionally, this method makes it
challenging to account for non-linear dose relationships. As
a result, these methods fail to generate data that captures the
potential threat posed by chemicals associated with
Ingestion is a common interaction between biota and
microplastics. The fate and impact of microplastics and their
associated chemicals vary across species and environments
[6]. Laboratory studies demonstrate increased toxicity from
the combination of microplastics and associated chemicals
[51,58]. It is difficult to evaluate whether toxicological im-
pacts translate to humans, however [59]. In animals, the quan-
tity of chemicals from microplastics is suspected to be mini-
mal compared to that from other components of the diet [6].
Microplastics and their constituents may exert localized parti-
cle toxicity, but chronic exposure producing a cumulative ef-
fect is of greater concern. In summary, further work is required
to estimate the dose of chemicals to humans from
microplastics in seafood and the related effects, including
studies of seafood intake, chemical characterization in sea-
food, and kinetic studies.
In human medicine, microplastics are used as carriers of med-
ications into body tissues [60]. A report commissioned by the
House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee of the
UK Parliament speculates that the additives and contaminants
of concern, when adsorbed to marine microplastics, would act
similarly to microplastics used in medical procedures, which
transfer to human tissues [60], though there is insufficient data
demonstrating this [61].
Curr Envir Health Rpt (2018) 5:375386 381
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We do not fully understand how microplastics interact with
human biological tissue. For example, if there is an adverse
interaction, the effects may be apparent and significant to the
individual, but without sufficient and extensive epidemiolog-
ical studies, impacts may be difficult to detect at a population
level. There is a significant correlation between urine BPA
levels and both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes
[62]. BPA exposures in humans occur both from low-
dose exposures to microplastics and both low- and high-
dose exposures from non-microplastic sources via inhala-
tion of air and dust or ingestion of foodstuffs. Research is
needed to thoroughly assess the risk of microplastics and
nanoplastic dietary exposure.
Microplastics and their constituents may exert localized
particle toxicity, but chronic exposure producing a cumulative
effect is of greater concern. To address research gaps, it is
recommended that scientists evaluate the relative impact of
microplastics as an exposure pathway. Further, it would be
valuable to identify sorbed contaminant bioavailability and
use biomonitoring methods to contextualize safe toxicological
exposure parameters for chronic exposure to microplastics
and their constituents [7].
Mitigation of and Adaptation to Risks
The above sections have described the state of evidence
linking microplastics to potential human and animal health
risk. Microplastics, chemical toxicity, and chronic exposure
to microplastics may pose risk to human health, especially
with increasing direct exposure to plastic and localized
chemicals. And, while significant gaps remain, complimenta-
ry bodies of evidence indicate likely exposures and potential
hazards from both particles and associated chemicals. The
impact of microplastics on human health is uncertain, but
cannot be ignored, and presents one justification to mitigate
the increasing influx of plastic into the environment.
Table 4 Global agreements and domestic legislation governing protection of the marine environment
Title Description
A. Global agreements to protect the marine environment from dumping
Convention of the Prevention of Marine Pollution by
Dumping of Wastes and other Matter (London Convention 1972)
Limits the quantities of land-based waste permissible for dumping in the ocean
International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from
Ships, 1973, as modified by the protocol of 1978
(MARPOL 73/78)
Provides measures to prevent pollution from ships and nation states, Annex
V: garbage [63]
1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) Provides a maritime framework addressing the rights and obligations of states.
XII: protection and preservation of the marine environment [64]
Honolulu Strategy A global framework to reduce marine plastic and its ecological, human health,
and economic impacts [65]
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14.1, 2015 By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce pollution marine debris, particularly
from land-based activities [66]
Clean Seas Campaign Engaging individuals, industries, and member states of UNEP to voluntarily
commit to reducing plastic pollution [67]
B. Key US Federal legislation to protect the marine and coastal
Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act
(MPRSA), 1972 (also known as the Ocean Dumping Act)
Regulates and restricts dumping materials of any kind into the oceans which
would adversely affect human health, welfare, or amenities, or the marine
environment, ecological systems, or economic potentialities [63]
Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 Intended to protect and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity
of the nationswaters[63]
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 1976 (RCRA) Principal federal law governing the disposal of solid and hazardous waste [63]
Shore Protection Act 1988 (SPA) Requires a vessel have a permit, number, orother marking visible if transporting
municipal or commercial waste within coastal waters [63]
Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act,
2006 (MDR PRA) (5. 362, 2006)
Identifies, determines sources of, assess, prevents, reduces, and removes marine
debris in addition to addressing the adverse impacts of marine debris on the
economy of the USA, marine environment, and navigation safety
Microbead-Free Waters Act (H.R. 1321, 2015) Prohibits the manufacture of personal care products containing microbeads,
including those made of biodegradable polymers, as of July 1, 2017
Save Our Seas Act (S.756, 2017) Providing funding for marine debris cleanup in coastal states and educational
outreach addressing the topic of marine debris as well as promoting
international action to reduce the incidence of marine debris
382 Curr Envir Health Rpt (2018) 5:375386
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Governments, industry, and civil society all have important
roles to play.
Multiple global agreements and domestic policies govern
protection of the marine environment; Table 4identifies sev-
eral notable policies. Since the enactment of The United
Nations Law of the Sea in 1982, a coastal country has sover-
eign rights extending 200 nautical miles from its shoreline. It
is, therefore, the responsibility of governments in those loca-
tions to determine who may use this area and how. With di-
verse cultures, priorities, and opinions present in each coastal
country, levels of protection differ considerably.
Industry also plays a critical role in reducing microplastic
prevalence throughout the supply chain, in the form of prima-
ry microplastics used in industrial processes and secondary
microplastics. Extended producer responsibility (EPR), a
stewardship policy targeting corporations marketing consum-
er goods, holds manufacturers responsible for the post-
consumer phase of plastic packaging [68]. IKEA, for example,
has integrated EPR policies into its business model by pro-
moting material reuse and recycling throughout its supply
chain and consumer experience. The company indicates in
their Sustainability Summary Report F17 that 590,258 t of
waste was produced in 2017 across their supply chain of
which 83% was recycled or incinerated for energy recovery
[69].Other companies are utilizing focused upcycling strate-
gies in their supply chain by directly removing, recycling, and
reclaiming plastic from the marine environment to create tex-
tile fibers which are then processed and manufactured into
yarn for consumer goods.Adidas, for example, partnered with
Parley for the Oceans in 2015, to manufacture sneakers and
clothing from plastic pollution in the Maldives using a zero-
waste 3D printing technique. In 2017, Adidas sold one million
pairs of Parley collaborated shoes, equivalent to 16.5 million
plastic bottles and 14.3 t of nylon gill nets [70,71]. Unifi,
Bureo, CityPlace, Method, and G-Star RAW clothing have
also taken steps to reduce ocean plastic pollution through
Ocean Plastic Programs [A.I.R., Avoid, Intercept, and
Redesign] [72]. While these are not EPRstewardship policies,
A.I.R. is a step in the right direction.
Another approach to mitigation is beach cleanup pro-
grams. These are generally organized by non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) globally and aim
both to raise awareness about marine debris and to re-
move materials that could cause harm and gradually de-
grade into microplastics. The International Coastal
Cleanup (ICC) coordinated by the Ocean Conservancy, a
US NGO, is one of the largest operational organizers of
these programs, providing significant financial and social
input [64]. The ICC engages 70 countries globally in an
annual September weekend litter survey and beach clean-
up activity [64]. From the 2016 event, 790,000 volunteers
participated in collecting 18 million pounds of trash
across over 25,000 miles of shoreline [64].
The extent to which these efforts influence marine plastic
pollution or protect the environment is unknown. It is also
unclear how measures aimed at preventing plastic pollution
leakage compare with reactive measures such as beach
cleanups, in terms of cost-effectiveness.
We know that humans ingest microplastics. Considering the
totality of research findings on microplastics to date, we know
that shellfish and other marine organisms consumed with intact
GI tracts pose particular concern because they accumulate and
retain microplastics. The toxicity associated with consuming
microplastics is likely dependent on size, associated chemicals,
and dose. Our collective understanding is limited regarding the
sources, fate, exposure, bioavailability, and toxicity of
microplastics and their associated chemicals in the marine en-
vironment. Current knowledge is mostly based on research
conducted within the last decade; however, interest in studying
microplastics is growing. The following are key research needs
for microplastics and their effects on human health:
&Assess microplasticsimpact on ecological systems and
food safety and improve understanding of potential toxi-
cological mechanisms and public health effects.
&Identify, if possible, lower risk species, production
methods, or regions, and interactions of microplastics with
nutrients and various seafood processing and cooking
methods, in order to promote adjustments rather than con-
sumer avoidance of seafood.
&Standardize data collection methods for microplastic oc-
currence in the environment and food stuffs, followed by
exposure assessment for dietary intake.
&Standardize data collection assessing major seafood pro-
duction types and seafood producing countries.
&Collect data on presence, identity and quantity of degrad-
ed plastic in food, and data on the translocation of
microplastics through the aquatic food web and human
food system.
&Develop methods to assess physical and chemical changes
of micro- and nanoplastics when interacting with biolog-
ical systems.
&Collect toxicity exposure data evaluating mixtures of var-
ious additives/monomers.
&Collect toxicological data on the most common polymers and
their relative contributions to microplastic contamination.
&Develop specific biomonitoring processes and body bur-
den measurements for additives and monomers.
&Research the toxicokinetics and toxicity of micro- and
nanoplastics and their associated chemical compounds,
to determine local gastrointestinal (GI) tract effects in an-
imals and humans.
Curr Envir Health Rpt (2018) 5:375386 383
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While much remains to be learned, filling these gaps is
essential for advancing the dual goals of promoting seafood
consumption and protecting consumers from negative health
effects from microplastics in the marine environment.
Support for D.C.L. and R.A.N. was provided by the Johns
Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) with a gift from
the GRACE Communications Foundation, which had no role
in study design, analysis, findings, or development of recom-
mendations. The authors thank Jillian Fry, Shawn McKenzie,
Jim Yager, Keeve Nachman, Mardi Shoer, and Marc
Weisskopf for their insightful feedback.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest Madeleine Smith, David C. Love, Chelsea M.
Rochman, and Roni A. Neff declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent This article does not
contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of
the authors.
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://, which permits unrestricted use,
distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appro-
priate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the
Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
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... Thus, the influence of MPs on aquatic (Botterell et al., 2019) and terrestrial organisms (Bradney et al., 2019) should be concerned. MPs have been reported to affect the behavior, physiology, and metabolism of fishes and mollusks (Van Cauwenberghe and Janssen, 2014;Mattsson et al., 2015;Smith et al., 2018). Zebrafish is used as an aquatic model to assess the ecotoxicology and the impact of the biological processes (Harris et al., 2014;Bhagat et al., 2020). ...
Full-text available
Most disposable plastic products are degraded slowly in the natural environment and continually turned to microplastics (MPs) and nanoplastics (NPs), posing additional environmental hazards. The toxicological assessment of MPs for marine organisms and mammals has been reported. Thus, there is an urgent need to be aware of the harm of MPs to the human immune system and more studies about immunological assessments. This review focuses on how MPs are produced and how they may interact with the environment and our body, particularly their immune responses and immunotoxicity. MPs can be taken up by cells, thus disrupting the intracellular signaling pathways, altering the immune homeostasis and finally causing damage to tissues and organs. The generation of reactive oxygen species is the mainly toxicological mechanisms after MP exposure, which may further induce the production of danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) and associate with the processes of toll-like receptors (TLRs) disruption, cytokine production, and inflammatory responses in immune cells. MPs effectively interact with cell membranes or intracellular proteins to form a protein-corona, and combine with external pollutants, chemicals, and pathogens to induce greater toxicity and strong adverse effects. A comprehensive research on the immunotoxicity effects and mechanisms of MPs, including various chemical compositions, shapes, sizes, combined exposure and concentrations, is worth to be studied. Therefore, it is urgently needed to further elucidate the immunological hazards and risks of humans that exposed to MPs.
... In addition, MPs can also adhere to fish skin or migrate to other tissues such as muscle gill and liver [70,71]. It has also been documented that very fine plastic particles can pass from living cells to the circulatory or lymphatic system, causing microplastics to disperse throughout the body [72]. Unfortunately, data on the presence of microplastics in tissues outside the digestive tract of fish are currently very limited. ...
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The presence of microplastic (MP) in different fish species taken from stations in Erzurum, Erzincan and Bingöl was examined. The obtained data were classified and shared with the scientific world as the first record made in this region. In the obtained results, the most dominant color was black (39-58%) and the most prevalent forms were fragment and fiber. The sizes (0-50, 50-100 µm) of microplastics differed according to the region and species. When the number of MPs in the gas-trointestinal systems of different fish species in the Bingöl, Erzurum and Erzincan provinces was evaluated, the most microplastics were found in Squalius squalus (20.7%) and Blicca bjoerkna (18.2%) in Bingöl province from among six different species. In Erzincan province, four fish species were sampled, and the rates were (29.7%) in Capoeta umbla and (26.6%) in Blicca bjoerkna. The highest abundance in Erzurum province was determined in Cyprinus carpio (53.0%). In the analyses performed on liver tissues, the highest ROS, which is the indicator of oxidative damage, was listed as Bingöl > Erzincan > Erzurum, while MDA levels were recorded as Bingöl > Erzurum > Erzincan, from high to low. When the differences between species were examined, the highest SOD and CAT activity was determined in the Mugil cephalus species. Considering the total MP numbers in fish samples, 47 MP was determined in this species. On the other hand, in the Squalius squalus species, where the highest total MP was determined, SOD and CAT activities were found to be low in Bingöl province. Therewithal, the high levels of ROS and MDA in this species can be said to induce oxida-tive stress due to the presence of microplastics on the one hand and to reduce antioxidant levels on the other hand. When the findings were evaluated, it was concluded that MPs in freshwater are a potential stressor, and freshwater environments may represent a critical target habitat for future MP removal and remediation strategies.
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The accumulation of microplastics (MPs) in the marine environment has become a global concern in recent years. MPs in oysters were considered as potential pollution in cultured farms in coastal areas. Accumulation of MPs in seafood may pose a threat to food safety, therefore it is important to investigate the abundance of MPs in bivalves to determine the potential risks of MPs to human health. In this research, MPs were identified and quantified in pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas which are cultured in Danang bay, Viet Nam. The obtained results showed that the average MPs concentration in oyster was about 2.36 ± 2.14 items/g (wet weight) and 33.25 ± 25.93 items/individual. The most abundant MPs size was in the range of 0-50µm (43.98 %), followed by the range of 50-100 µm (37.59 %). Besides, the most common shape was fragments (79.32 %), followed by fibers (20.30 %). Chemical composition of MPs polymer types was detected by μFT-IRspectra using a Nicolet iN10 MX Infrared Imaging Microscope. The major polymer types of MPs were Nylon (28.57 %), followed by Rayon (23.31 %), and Phenol resin (PFs 8.65 %). The results indicated that the occurrence of MPs in pacific oysters from Danang bay is indeed a potential risk to human health and further investigations need to be implemented for monitoring and improving MPs assessment in bivalves of Viet Nam.
Plastics, micro- and nano-plastics pollution are undoubtedly a severe and crucial ecological threat due to the durability of plastics and their destructive impacts on humans and wildlife. Most scientific investigations have addressed the classification, types, distribution, ingestion, fate, impacts, degradation, and various adverse effect of plastics. Heretofore, scanty reports have addressed implementing strategies for the remediation and mitigation of plastics. Therefore, in this paper, we review the current studies on the degradation of plastics, micro- and nano-plastics aided by microorganisms, and explore the relevant degradation properties and mechanisms. Diverse microorganisms are classified, such as bacteria, fungi, algae, cyanobacteria, wax worms, and enzymes that can decompose various plastics. Furthermore, bio-degradation is influenced by microbial features and environmental parameters; therefore, the ecological factors affecting plastic degradation and the resulting degradation consequences are discussed. In addition, the mechanisms underlying microbial-mediated plastic degradation are carefully studied. Finally, upcoming research directions and prospects for plastics degradation employing microorganisms are addressed. This review covers a comprehensive overview of the microorganism-assisted degradation of plastics, micro- and nano-plastics, and serves as a resource for future research into sustainable plastics pollution management methods.
Plastic pollution exacerbated by the excessive use of synthetic plastics and its recalcitrance has been recognized among the most pressing global threats. Microbial degradation of plastics has gained attention as a possible eco-friendly countermeasure, as several studies have shown microbial metabolic capabilities as potential degraders of various synthetic plastics. However, still defined biochemical mechanisms of biodegradation for the most plastics remain elusive, because the widely used culture-dependent approach can access only a very limited amount of the metabolic potential in each microbiome. A culture-independent approach, including metagenomics, is becoming increasingly important in the mining of novel plastic-degrading enzymes, considering its more expanded coverage on the microbial metabolism in microbiomes. Here, we described the advantages and drawbacks associated with four different metagenomics approaches (microbial community analysis, functional metagenomics, targeted gene sequencing, and whole metagenome sequencing) for the mining of plastic-degrading microorganisms and enzymes from the plastisphere. Among these approaches, whole metagenome sequencing has been recognized among the most powerful tools that allow researchers access to the entire metabolic potential of a microbiome. Accordingly, we suggest strategies that will help to identify plastisphere-enriched sequences as de novo plastic-degrading enzymes using the whole metagenome sequencing approach. We anticipate that new strategies for metagenomics approaches will continue to be developed and facilitate to identify novel plastic-degrading microorganisms and enzymes from microbiomes.
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The aim of this poster is to make a Literature Review about the microplastics in Bivalves molluscs, to support an exposure assessment to humans. In fact, microplastics are defined as heterogeneous mixture of differently shaped materials in the range of 0.1–5,000 µm and, because of their small size and widespread occurrence, they are now available also to marine species throughout the food web. Bivalve molluscs (BM), which are filter-feeding organisms, are particularly subjected to the phenomenon of MPs accumulation and, in addition, they are usually consumed as whole. Even though the risk of MPs ingestion via BM consumption, such as mussels, was proved to be minimal respect to other exposure via, a correct human exposure assessment cannot disregard a detailed collection of data analysing MP level in BM categories of commercial interest. In general, data gaps in microplastic research led to an insufficient information to assess the true number of MPs to which humans may be exposed to via food. In a context when mass-media often cause excessive alarm by leveraging on the current high citizens sensibility towards environment and health issues, a scientifically validated consumers information is needed to reduce the potential damage against the seafood sector.
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The effect of cellulose nanofibers (CNFs)/polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) coating on the hydrophobic, oleophobic, and strength properties of paper were investigated. The results showed that the size of bamboo fibers (BFs) decreased significantly and the crystallinity increased significantly after biological enzyme treatment. The average length of CNFs obtained by high pressure homogenization was 2.4 µm, the diameter was 28.7 nm, and the crystallinity was 63.63%. When the coating weight of PVA/CNF was 2.0 g/m² and the CNF dosage was increased from 0.0% to 3.0%, the paper grease resistance grade was increased from 7 to 9, the Cobb value was decreased from 22.68 ± 0.29 g/m² to 18.37 ± 0.63 g/m², the contact angle was increased from 67.82° to 93.56°, and the longitudinal and transverse tensile index were increased from 67.72 ± 0.21 N m/g and 37.63 ± 0.25 N m/g to 68.61 ± 0.55 N m/g and 40.71 ± 0.78 N m/g, respectively. When the CNF dosage was 3.0% and the coating weight of PVA/CNF was 4.0 g/m², the grease resistance grade of the paper was 12, the Cobb value was 21.80 ± 0.39 g/m², and the longitudinal and transverse tensile indices were 72.11 ± 0.43 N m/g and 42.58 ± 0.48 N m/g, respectively. In summary, the increase of CNFs can effectively improve the lipophobicity, hydrophobicity and tensile strength of the PVA coated paper.
Microplastics are ubiquitous in the environment, including in food and drinking water. Consequently, there is growing concern about the human health risks associated with microplastic exposure through diet. However, the occurrence of microplastics in the human body, particularly in mothers and fetuses, is incompletely understood because of the limited amount of data on their presence in the body and the human placenta. This study evaluated the presence and characteristics of microplastics in 17 placentas using laser direct infrared (LD-IR) spectroscopy. Microplastics were detected in all placenta samples, with an average abundance of 2.70 ± 2.65 particles/g and a range of 0.28 to 9.55 particles/g. Among these microplastics, 11 polymer types were identified. The microplastics were mainly composed of polyvinyl chloride (PVC, 43.27 %), polypropylene (PP, 14.55 %), and polybutylene succinate (PBS, 10.90 %). The sizes of these microplastics ranged from 20.34 to 307.29 μm, and most (80.29 %) were smaller than 100 μm. Most of the smaller microplastics were fragments, but fibers dominated the larger microplastics (200–307.29 μm). Interestingly, the majority of PVC and PP were smaller than 200 μm. This study provides a clearer understanding of the shape, size, and nature of microplastics in the human placenta. Importantly, these data also provide crucial information for performing risk assessments of the exposure of fetuses to microplastics in the future.
Due to global warming, drought, population growth and industrialisation, existing water resources are rapidly being depleted and polluted. Pollution caused by millions of plastic waste reaching water resources seriously threatens the aquatic environment. This manuscript reviews the current state of knowledge about microplastics in the aquatic ecosystem, their analysis and detection methods, and their effects on aquatic organisms. In addition to the measurement methods, alternative new methods and the relevant findings for MPs, including abundance, size, shapes, colours and polymer types are summarised considering the literature. In addition, the effects of microplastics on the aquatic ecosystem especially fish had been evaluated. In the light of the completed researches, it is understood that abundance and size of MP s are connected with fish species, tissue type and feeding regime. KOH for the digestion in tissues and fenton reagent for sediment samples were found as more suitable techniques. FTIR and Raman spectroscopy were more advantaged because they are not only fast – easy but also have repeatable specifications.
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Microplastics (MPs) are an emerging pollutant in freshwater that have become a cause for concern among researchers around the world. In this study, MPs contamination in water, sediment and edible arthropods of the upper Chi River and Pong River was studied to analyze the influence of anthropogenic activities on contamination in the river environments and arthropods. Five species of arthropods were observed to assess the impact of MPs contamination: Caridina sp, Macrobrachium sp., Aethriamanta sp., Aciagrion sp. and Sphaerodema molestum. MPs were found in water and sediment samples with an average of 141 items/m³ and 9.5 items/kg, respectively. Fibers were major MPs shape in water (63%) and sediment (81.9%). MPs with dark blue color were numerically dominant in water (28%) and sediment (39.6%). MPs in edible arthropods were in the range of 0.25 – 8.0 items/individual. A wider variety of polymer types was found in the rivers than in the edible arthropods. Overall, dark blue colored PP fibers were found to be most abundant in water, sediment and edible arthropods with MPs mostly ranging 1000–2000 μm in size. MPs concentration in water correlated with community size (p-value <0.05), and the abundance in sediment correlated with the number of roofs (p-value <0.05) and the distance of the rivers from communities (p-value <0.05). Anthropogenic activities significantly contributed to abundance of MP in water and sediment. Industrial, community and fish farming contributed to MP in water and agriculture and community directly correlated with MP in sediment with p-value <0.05 at 95% confidence. The results indicate the significant influence of anthropogenic activities on the amount of MPs in water and sediment, directly relating to contamination in edible arthropods. Domestic wastewater and plastic waste are likely to be the leading causes of existing MPs in the rivers and arthropods.
Technical Report
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Plastic production has increased exponentially since the early 1950s and reached 322 million tonnes in 2015, this figure does not include synthetic fibres which accounted for an additional 61 million tonnes in 2015. It is expected that production of plastics will continue to increase in the foreseeable future and production levels are likely to double by 2025. Inadequate management of plastic waste has led to increased contamination of freshwater, estuarine and marine environments. It has been estimated that in 2010 between 4.8 million to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste entered the oceans. Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gears (ALDFG) are considered the main source of plastic waste by the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, but their relative contribution is not well known at regional and global levels. Microplastics are usually defined as plastic items which measure less than 5 mm in their longest dimension, this definition includes also nanoplastics which are particles less than 100 nanometres (nm) in their longest dimension. Plastic items may be manufactured within this size range (primary micro- and nanoplastics) or result from the degradation and fragmentation of larger plastic items (secondary micro- and nanoplastics). Microplastics may enter aquatic environments through different pathways and they have been reported in all environmental matrices (beaches, sediments, surface waters and water column). Ingestion of microplastics by aquatic organisms, including species of commercial importance for fisheries and aquaculture, has been documented in laboratory and field studies. In certain field studies it has been possible to source ingested microplastics to fisheries and aquaculture activities. Microplastics contain a mixture of chemicals added during manufacture, the so-called additives, and efficiently sorb (adsorb or absorb) persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic contaminants (PBTs) from the environment. The ingestion of microplastics by aquatic organisms and the accumulation of PBTs have been central to the perceived hazard and risk of microplastics in the marine environment. Adverse effects of microplastics ingestion have only been observed in aquatic organisms under laboratory conditions, usually at very high exposure concentrations that exceed present environmental concentrations by several orders of magnitude. In wild aquatic organisms microplastics have only been observed within the gastrointestinal tract, usually in small numbers, and at present there is no evidence that microplastics ingestion has negative effects on populations of wild and farmed aquatic organisms. In humans the risk of microplastic ingestion is reduced by the removal of the gastrointestinal tract in most species of seafood consumed. However, most species of bivalves and several species of small fish are consumed whole, which may lead to microplastic exposure. A worst case estimate of exposure to microplastics after consumption of a portion of mussels (225 g) would lead to ingestion of 7 micrograms (µg) of plastic, which would have a negligible effect (less than 0.1 percent of total dietary intake) on chemical exposure to certain PBTs and plastic additives.
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There is a paucity of information about the occurrence of microplastics (MPs) in edible fish tissues. Here, we investigated the potential presence of MPs in the excised organs (viscera and gills) and eviscerated flesh (whole fish excluding the viscera and gills) of four commonly consumed dried fish species (n = 30 per species). The MP chemical composition was then determined using micro-Raman spectroscopy and elemental analysis with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX). Out of 61 isolated particles, 59.0% were plastic polymers, 21.3% were pigment particles, 6.55% were non-plastic items (i.e. cellulose or actinolite), while 13.1% remained unidentified. The level of heavy metals on MPs or pigment particles were below the detection limit. Surprisingly, in two species, the eviscerated flesh contained higher MP loads than the excised organs, which highlights that evisceration does not necessarily eliminate the risk of MP intake by consumers. Future studies are encouraged to quantify anthropogenic particle loads in edible fish tissues.
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Microplastics are a pollutant of environmental concern. Their presence in food destined for human consumption and in air samples has been reported. Thus, microplastic exposure via diet or inhalation could occur, the human health effects of which are unknown. The current review article draws upon cross-disciplinary scientific literature to discuss and evaluate the potential human health impacts of microplastics and outlines urgent areas for future research. Key literature up to September 2016 relating to bioaccumulation, particle toxicity, and chemical and microbial contaminants were critically examined. Whilst this is an emerging field, complimentary existing fields indicate potential particle, chemical and microbial hazards. If inhaled or ingested, microplastics may bioaccumulate and exert localised particle toxicity by inducing or enhancing an immune response. Chemical toxicity could occur due to the localised leaching of component monomers, endogenous additives, and adsorbed environmental pollutants. Chronic exposure is anticipated to be of greater concern due to the accumulative effect which could occur. This is expected to be dose-dependent, and a robust evidence-base of exposure levels is currently lacking. Whilst there is potential for microplastics to impact human health, assessing current exposure levels and burdens is key. This information will guide future research into the potential mechanisms of toxicity and hence therein possible health effects.
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Microplastics have been documented in marine environments worldwide, where they pose a potential risk to biota. Environmental interactions between microplastics and lower trophic organisms are poorly understood. Coastal shelf seas are rich in productivity but also experience high levels of microplastic pollution. In these habitats, fish have an important ecological and economic role. In their early life stages, planktonic fish larvae are vulnerable to pollution, environmental stress and predation. Here we assess the occurrence of microplastic ingestion in wild fish larvae. Fish larvae and water samples were taken across three sites (10, 19 and 35 km from shore) in the western English Channel from April to June 2016. We identified 2.9% of fish larvae (n = 347) had ingested microplastics, of which 66% were blue fibres; ingested microfibers closely resembled those identified within water samples. With distance from the coast, larval fish density increased significantly (P < 0.05), while waterborne microplastic concentrations (P < 0.01) and incidence of ingestion decreased. This study provides baseline ecological data illustrating the correlation between waterborne microplastics and the incidence of ingestion in fish larvae.
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In the blue crab Callinectes sapidus, injection with the bacterial pathogen Vibrio campbellii causes a decrease in oxygen consumption. Histological and physiological evidence suggests that the physical obstruction of hemolymph flow through the gill vasculature, caused by aggregations of bacteria and hemocytes, underlies the decrease in aerobic function associated with bacterial infection. We sought to elucidate the bacterial properties sufficient to induce a decrease in circulating hemocytes (hemocytopenia) as an indicator for the initiation of hemocyte aggregation and subsequent impairment of respiration. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the primary component of the gram-negative bacterial cell wall, is known to interact with crustacean hemocytes. Purified LPS was covalently bound to the surfaces of polystyrene beads resembling bacteria in size. Injection of these “LPS beads” caused a decrease in circulating hemocytes comparable to that seen with V. campbellii injection, while beads alone failed to do so. These data suggest that in general, gram-negative bacteria could stimulate hemocytopenia. To test this hypothesis, crabs were injected with different bacteria—seven gram-negative and one gram-positive species—and their effects on circulating hemocytes were assessed. With one exception, all gram-negative strains caused decreases in circulating hemocytes, suggesting an important role for LPS in the induction of this response. However, LPS is not necessary to provoke the immune response given that Bacillus coral, a gram-positive species that lacks LPS, caused a decrease in circulating hemocytes. These results suggest that a wide range of bacteria could impair metabolism in C. sapidus.
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Microplastics have been increasingly detected and quantified in marine and freshwater environments, and there are growing concerns about potential effects in biota. A literature review was conducted to summarize the current state of knowledge of microplastics in Canadian aquatic environments; specifically, the sources, environmental fate, behaviour, abundance, and toxicological effects in aquatic organisms. While we found that research and publications on these topics have increased dramatically since 2010, relatively few studies have assessed the presence, fate, and effects of microplastics in Canadian water bodies. We suggest that efforts to determine aquatic receptors at greatest risk of detrimental effects due to microplastic exposure, and their associated contaminants, are particularly warranted. There is also a need to address the gaps identified, with a particular focus on the species and conditions found in Canadian aquatic systems. These gaps include characterization of the presence of microplastics in Canadian freshwater ecosystems, identifying key sources of microplastics to these systems, and evaluating the presence of microplastics in Arctic waters and biota.
The occurrence and effects of microplastics (MPs) in the aquatic environment are receiving increasing attention. In addition to their possible direct adverse effects on biota, the potential role of MPs as vectors for hydrophobic organic chemicals (HOCs), compared to natural pathways, is a topic of much debate. It is evident, however, that temporal and spatial variations of MP occurrence do (and will) occur. To further improve the estimations of the role of MPs as vectors for HOC transfer into biota under varying MP concentrations and environmental conditions, it is important to identify and understand the governing processes. Here, we explore HOC sorption to and desorption from MPs and the underlying principles for their interactions. We discuss intrinsic and extrinsic parameters influencing these processes and focus on the importance of the exposure route for diffusive mass transfer. Also, we outline research needed to fill knowledge gaps and improve model-based calculations of MP-facilitated HOC transfer in the environment. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2017;13:488–493.
This report represents the conclusions of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee convened to evaluate the safety of various food additives and contaminants and to prepare specifications for identity and purity. The first part of the report contains a brief description of general considerations addressed at the meeting, including updates on matters of interest to the work of the Committee. A summary follows of the Committee's evaluations of technical, toxicological and/or dietary exposure data for seven food additives (benzoates; lipase from Fusarium heterosporum expressed in Ogataea polymorpha; magnesium stearate; maltotetraohydrolase from Pseudomonas stutzeri expressed in Bacillus licheniformis; mixed β-glucanase, cellulase and xylanase from Rasamsonia emersonii; mixed β-glucanase and xylanase from Disporotrichum dimorphosporum; polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)- polyethylene glycol (PEG) graft copolymer) and two groups of contaminants (non-dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls and pyrrolizidine alkaloids). Specifications for the following food additives were revised or withdrawn: advantame; annatto extracts (solavnt extracted bixin, ad solvent-extracted norbixin); food additives containing aluminium and/or silicon (aluminium silicate; calcium aluminium silicate; calcium silicate; silicon dioxide, amorphous; sodium aluminium silicate); and glycerol ester of gum rosin. Annexed to the report are tables or text summarizing the toxicological and dietary exposure information and information on specifications as well as the Committees recommendations on the food additives and contaminants considered at this meeting.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), a policy approach in which the responsibility of the waste from a consumer good is extended back up to the producer of the good, is developing and expanding in OECD countries. Governments find that these schemes can provide a new and flexible approach to reduce the upward trend of waste from consumer products. To address these issues, OECD organised a workshop in December 2002, which was hosted by the Japanese Ministry of Environment, in Tokyo. This book contains selected papers presented at this workshop.