Nav: Home

Is there a risk to human health from microplastics?

October 31, 2018

The BfR has no reliable data on the chemical composition, particle size and content of microplastic particles in foodstuffs. Due to the lack of reliable data, a health risk assessment for the consumption of food contaminated with microplastic particles is currently only possible to a limited extent. At the request of the BfR, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) prepared a comprehensive scientific opinion on the "Presence of microplastics and nanoplastics in food, with particular focus on seafood". This opinion was published in May 2016:

https://www.efsa.europa.eu/de/efsajournal/pub/4501 (EFSA 2016)

The main aspects of the opinion were underlined in an accompanying press release: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/de/press/news/160623 (EFSA 2016a)

According to EFSA, there is a possibility of oral absorption of microplastic particles of a certain size, although the fate and possible degradation in the gastrointestinal tract have not been sufficiently investigated so far due to a lack of analytical methods and valid studies.

According to EFSA, available studies show that intestinal absorption appears to be very low (results from rodent studies). According to EFSA, only microparticles smaller than 150 mi-crometers (μm, 1 μm corresponds to 0.001 mm) can cross the intestinal barrier and only mi-croparticles smaller than 1.5 μm can reach organs located deeper. No results from human studies are currently available.

First own investigations of the BfR on cultures of human intestinal epithelial cells as well as in animal experiments showed that plastic particles up to a diameter of approx. 4 μm can be absorbed in the cell culture of epithelial cells of the intestinal wall. In animal experiments, however, it was shown that despite the administration of very large amounts of plastic parti-cles in the size of 1 - 10 μm, these could only be found sporadically in the examined intestinal epithelial cells. The studies on the oral uptake of microplastic particles carried out at the BfR to date with various model particles did not reveal any evidence of damage to the intestinal tissue.

The BfR does not have any findings on the question of whether microplastic particles can deposit in the body.

Microplastics in cosmetic products

According to the current state of knowledge, a health risk from dermal or unintended oral absorption via peelings or shower gels is unlikely from the point of view of the BfR, since the microplastic particles occurring there are larger than 1 μm. With this particle size, absorption via healthy and intact skin is not to be expected with foreseeable use of the products. Even if cosmetic products are accidentally swallowed,it can be assumed that absorption via the gastrointestinal tract would only be possible to a small extent and only with particles of a few micrometers in size, and that the majority of the particles are excreted via the stool. From the point of view of the BfR, it is unlikely that health-relevant amounts of ethylene from polyethylene are released by microplastic particles during the passage through the gastrointestinal tract.

Microplastics as transport vehicles for other undesirable substances

It has been described that substances can accumulate on microplastic particles. These substances bind according to their chemical-physical surface properties and can interact with the microplastic particles. Due to the predominantly non-polar, lipophilic (= fat-loving) properties of microplastic particles, substances such aspolychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are discussed here. Whether these substances actually con-tribute to human exposure through uptake by loaded microplastic particles has not yet been researched.

An EFSA model calculation (EFSA 2016a) shows that the daily intake of PCBs and PAHs through the consumption of contaminated microplastic particles in mussels can only increase by 0.006 % for PCBs and less than 0.004 % for PAHs compared to other intake pathways.

It was assumed in the extreme case that 225 g of mussels containing 7 μg microplastic particles per kg of mussels (equivalent to 900 particles) were consumed daily by humans. These mussels in turn contain high levels of PCBs and PAHs, of which the PCBs and PAHs are completely transferred to humans.

It has been described that biofilms can develop from bacteria on particles that float, for example, in water. Whether and to what extent microplastic particles can act as vehicles for bacteria or viruses that have an influence on the safety of food products or the health of hu-mans has not been investigated.

Avoidance of the absorption of microplastics by humans

Sources of microplastic particle inputs into the environment and the food chain are manifold. Generally valid recommendations for protective measures cannot currently be formulated. There is a great need for research into the question of whether and under what conditions microplastic particles can have a potential hazard. Entrance paths for microplastic particles into the environment and the food chain must be further researched and solutions for the avoidance of inputs must be sought.
-end-
Further information on the BfR website on microplastics https://www.bfr.bund.de/en/questions_and_answers_on_microplastics-192775.htmlhttps://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/349/microplastic-particles-in-food.pdf

Further information on microplastics in the environment: https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/tags/mikroplastikpartikel

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the scope of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). It advises the Federal Government and the Länder on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics closely related to its assessment tasks.

BfR Federal Institute for Risk Assessment

Related Epithelial Cells Articles:

Size matters: How cells pack in epithelial tissues
Small-cell clones in proliferating epithelia -- tissues that line all body surfaces -- organize very differently than their normal-sized counterparts, according to a recent study from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.
Closing the gap -- a two-tier mechanism for epithelial barrier
Scientists from Japan's National Institute for Physiological Sciences and their collaborators report in a new study published in The Journal of Cell Biology that epithelial barrier is composed of two molecular systems with distinct barrier properties.
Dead cells disrupt how immune cells respond to wounds and patrol for infection
Immune cells prioritise the clearance of dead cells overriding their normal migration to sites of injury.
Revealed: How the 'Iron Man' of immune cells helps T cells fight infection
The immune system's killer T cells are crucial in fighting viral infections.
White blood cells related to allergies may also be harnessed to destroy cancer cells
A new Tel Aviv University study finds that white blood cells which are responsible for chronic asthma and modern allergies may be used to eliminate malignant colon cancer cells.
Conversion of breast cancer cells into fat cells impedes the formation of metastases
An innovative combination therapy can force malignant breast cancer cells to turn into fat cells.
Successful anti-PD-1 therapy requires interaction between CD8+ T cells and dendritic cells
A team led by a Massachusetts General Hospital investigator has found that successful cancer immunotherapy targeting the PD-1 molecule requires interaction between cytotoxic CD8+ T cells, which have been considered the primary therapeutic target, and dendritic cells, critical activators of T cell response.
Epithelial cells adopt a new geometric shape so that tissue can curve
This finding allows organs to acquire very complex yet very stable shapes.
Researchers develop a new method for turning skin cells into pluripotent stem cells
Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have for the first time succeeded in converting human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells by activating the cell's own genes.
Interrupted reprogramming converts adult cells into high yields of progenitor-like cells
A modified version of iPS methodology, called interrupted reprogramming, allows for a highly controlled, safer, and more cost-effective strategy for generating progenitor-like cells from adult cells.
More Epithelial Cells News and Epithelial Cells Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Accessing Better Health
Essential health care is a right, not a privilege ... or is it? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can give everyone access to a healthier way of life, despite who you are or where you live. Guests include physician Raj Panjabi, former NYC health commissioner Mary Bassett, researcher Michael Hendryx, and neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#544 Prosperity Without Growth
The societies we live in are organised around growth, objects, and driving forward a constantly expanding economy as benchmarks of success and prosperity. But this growing consumption at all costs is at odds with our understanding of what our planet can support. How do we lower the environmental impact of economic activity? How do we redefine success and prosperity separate from GDP, which politicians and governments have focused on for decades? We speak with ecological economist Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey, Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Propserity, and author of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab