Nav: Home

Do microplastics harm humans?

February 06, 2019

About 8 million metric tons of plastic waste winds up in the oceans every year -- bottles, bags and doo-dads that eventually break down into tiny pieces, called microplastics. These inedible bits have now been found in human fecal samples, but do microplastics cause harm to people? That's the question many researchers are pondering, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

Senior Editor Alex Scott explains that seabirds and marine animals -- including some fish that humans eat -- often take up microplastics from the ocean. Humans also might ingest these small bits as they are shed from plastic packaging or from using products that contain them. A recent small-scale study recently identified microplastics in human feces, so people can have them in their bodies. But do they just get eliminated in the stool, or do they get into organs and cause damage?

That's not such an easy question to answer. Not all microplastics are equal -- they can be made of different compounds and additives that could have different effects. In addition, contaminant compounds and bacteria can hitch a ride on microplastics, potentially complicating analyses. Despite these challenges, many organizations around the world are now trying to get a handle on this issue. Some are funding studies, and others are setting up task forces and holding symposia to figure out best practices and standards. Although much remains to be determined, one thing scientists all seem to agree on is that consumers should continue enjoying shellfish and other seafood until the evidence is in and the analyses are completed.
-end-
The article, "The pervasiveness of microplastics," is freely available here.

The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us on Twitter | Facebook

American Chemical Society

Related Microplastics Articles:

Microplastics from the washing machine
Billions of pieces of plastic are floating in the oceans.
Predicting the movement and impacts of microplastic pollution
Microplastics, which are particles measuring less than 5 mm, are of increasing concern.
SETAC Europe 27th Annual Meeting
The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Europe 27th Annual Meeting will host 2,000 scientists from more than 60 countries from May 7-11 to Brussels, Belgium, and feature 1,800 presentations over 81 sessions, including 493 platform presentations and 1,291 poster presentations.
European Geosciences Union meeting: Press conferences, media registration
The schedule of press conferences at the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) is now available.
Harmonization needed!
Since the first reports on a dramatic increase in microplastic contamination in the sea twenty years ago, research efforts have intensified worldwide.
RIT researchers estimate 10,000 metric tons of plastic enter Great Lakes every year
A new study by Rochester Institute of Technology that inventories and tracks high concentrations of plastic in the Great Lakes could help inform cleanup efforts and target pollution prevention.
Study demonstrates potential support for ban on microbeads in cosmetics
Public awareness regarding the presence of microbeads within personal care products is lacking in some areas but there is strong support for their inclusion being banned, according to new research led by the University of Plymouth.
Coastal wildlife more vulnerable to microplastics than expected
Coastal-dwelling marine wildlife, including crabs, lobsters and shellfish, which play a crucial role in the food chain, are more vulnerable to harmful plastic pollution than previously expected, a new study has found.
Washing clothes releases thousands of microplastic particles into environment, study shows
More than 700,000 microscopic fibers could be released into waste water during an average washing machine cycle, according to new research from Plymouth University.
Plastic debris and policy
Captain Charles Moore introduced the world to the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' in the mid-1990s.

Related Microplastics Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...