Sybren De Boever of the Free University of Brussels and colleagues the “human-centric” scientific literature concerning microplastics and published their findings in Science of the Total Environment on January 23, 2024. To provide an overview of what is known that concerns humans directly, De Boever et al. summarize the available literature on sources of microplastics, exposure routes and levels, deposition in the body, and confirmed health effects.  

For the known sources of microplastic exposure to humans, the authors gathered the size, shape, and polymer type of the measured particles from those sources as reported in published peer-reviewed studies. Known sources of exposure include packaged food (FPF reported), takeaway containers (FPF reported), bottled and tap water (FPF reported), tea bags (FPF reported), and cutting boards along with non-food contact sources including cosmetics, clothes, and environmental pollution. Additionally, the authors reviewed the literature for measurements of particle exposure via inhalation, ingestion, or dermal contact (FPF reported). Finally, they documented locations in the human body where microplastic particles have been found (FPF reported).  

The article provides a concise overview of the field of research on human health effects from microplastics as it currently stands. De Boever and co-authors point out that technology currently limits the ability to detect nanoparticles but highlight that “the particle degradation dogma speculates that microplastic detection simultaneously signifies the presence of undetectable nanoplastics.” They conclude by encouraging researchers “to shift their focus towards environmentally relevant particles in terms of plastic type, particle origin and surface charge.”  

 

Reference

De Boever, S. et al. (2024). “.” Science of the Total Environment. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2024.170262