The Huge Consumption of Plastics : A Part from the Book Chapter : Microplastic Exposure to Infants

The huge consumption of plastics and the associated large amount of plastic waste cause their constant release into the environment, where they can degrade into smaller pieces, microplastics (MPs), which are considered contaminants. MPs are a synthetic material that contains a high proportion of polymers. MPs come from multiple sources, interact with different components of the environment, and have different routes of transport and transformation. Currently, microplastic pollution is an urgent worldwide problem due to environmental pollution. Statistics show that about 3 million tons of plastic is produced annually, and most of it is waste. Due to the influence of various external factors (UV radiation, weather effects, etc.), plastics degrade into smaller particles, MPs. As they are highly persistent substances that are not biodegradable and that accumulate in various environments, they represent a potential risk to human health.

However, it should be kept in mind that MPs also serve as carriers of heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants that can have toxic effects on the human body.

The constant increase in plastics and their degradation products leads to their presence in components of the environment, including the food chain. Pollution by MPs is a great concern because they can be transported over long distances and spread into soil, air, and water, but they are also found in various foods such as tap water, bottled water, seafood, honey, and salt. Air, indoor dust, and contaminated food, food products and water have been considered the main sources of MP exposure. Recently, information about other possible sources of exposure to MPs, such as baby bottles, has been increasingly emerging, while studies on human stool, placentas, and fetuses provide evidence of exposure to MPs in infants and children. However, research in this area is still insufficient.

Author(s) Details:

Csilla Mišľanová
Faculty of Nursing and Professional Health Studies, Institute of Nutrition, Slovak Medical University, 833 03, Bratislava, Slovakia

Martina Valachovičová
Faculty of Nursing and Professional Health Studies, Institute of Nutrition, Slovak Medical University, 833 03, Bratislava, Slovakia


Also See : The isolated compounds from the plant can be used as lead molecules for drug discovery in oral medicine : A Part from The Book : Isolation and Phytochemical Identification of Antibacterial Bioactive Components


Recent Global Research Developments in Health Effects of Microplastics on the Human Body

Bloodstream Absorption: Studies have confirmed that microplastics can be absorbed into the human bloodstream1. Researchers detected microplastic particles in blood samples from healthy adult volunteers in the Netherlands. The types of polymers varied across the group, highlighting the widespread presence of these particles.

Routes of Entry: Microplastics can enter our bodies through ingestion (swallowing) and inhalation (breathing them in). Evidence suggests that our food and water are contaminated with microplastics [1].

Health Risks:

  • Liver Fibrosis and Metabolic Disorders: In vivo and in vitro studies show that microplastic exposure can cause liver fibrosis and metabolic disorders [2].
  • Kidney Impairment: Microplastics can significantly impair kidney function.
  • Inflammatory Response and Lung Impairment: Exposure to microplastics affects lung function and triggers inflammation.
  • Ecological Imbalance: Microplastics disrupt intestinal flora and ecological balance.
  • Neurological Function and Reproduction: Impairment of neurological function and reproductive health is also associated with microplastic exposure [2].

Chemical Leaching: Different chemicals can leach from plastic products (such as water bottles, knives, and cosmetics) into our bodies. These compounds are linked to serious health issues, including endocrine disruption, weight gain, insulin resistance, decreased reproductive health, and cancer [3].

Health risk of human exposure to microplastics: a review

Microplastics are emerging contaminants that have been detected recently in most environmental and biological systems, yet their health risk for humans has not been clearly summarized. Here we review human health risk associated with exposure to microplastics with focus on methods of exposure assessment, hazard identification, dose–response assessment, exposure assessment, and risk characterization [4].

References

  1. Pinto-Rodrigues, A. (2023). Microplastics are in our bodies. Here’s why we don’t know the health risks. Science News. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/microplastics-human-bodies-health-risks
  2. Yang, Z., Wang, M., Feng, Z. et al. Human Microplastics Exposure and Potential Health Risks to Target Organs by Different Routes: A Review. Curr Pollution Rep 9, 468–485 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40726-023-00273-8
  3. Microplastics on Human Health: How much do they harm us? https://www.undp.org/kosovo/blog/microplastics-human-health-how-much-do-they-harm-us
  4. Tang, K.H.D., Li, R., Li, Z. et al. Health risk of human exposure to microplastics: a review. Environ Chem Lett 22, 1155–1183 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10311-024-01727-1

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