Microplastics in the world's oceans with consequences for food systems and human health

Source: Zhihao Yuan, Rajat Nag, Enda Cummins

Pollution of our oceans by plastic debris, especially microplastics, has reached alarming proportions and has become one of the most burning global environmental issues. Governments, the public, scientific communities, media and NGOs worldwide are focusing their attention on this pressing issue in marine ecology and environmental research.

The present study focused on a detailed review of the current state of knowledge regarding microplastics. Definitions and characteristics of microplastics were highlighted, and their detection in marine and food systems was evaluated.

The study results are clear: plastic waste is not biodegradable. Instead, they break down through physical processes into tiny particles - microplastics - that can vary in size from micro- to nanometers.

This microplastic poses a serious threat. It can contaminate our drinking water, accumulate in the food chain and release toxic chemicals. These can trigger a wide variety of diseases, including certain types of cancer. Micro- and nanoplastics can also cause acute and (sub)chronic toxicity, carcinogenicity, genotoxicity and developmental toxicity.

Most alarmingly, nanoplastics (NPs) can cause chronic toxicity, including cardiovascular toxicity, hepatotoxicity, and neurotoxicity. These findings provide the basis for risk assessment of micro- and nanoplastics in marine ecosystems and the potential impacts on human health.

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