Microplastics in Food: Health Risks

Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 95)


The presence and ecological risks of microplastics (MPs) are increasingly reported, whereas the impacts of MPs on human health remain largely unknown. Recent studies have confirmed the MP contamination in food items, including seafood, table salt, drinking water, etc. Dietary exposure is one of the inevitable exposure pathways of MPs, which causes concern about the potential human health risks. Whether we assess health risks or try to reduce food MP contamination, the prerequisites are to figure out the contamination pathways of MPs and their actual level in food items. At present, territorial system is facing serious environmental problems, with soil, freshwater, and air suffering from MP pollution. This leads to diversity and complexity of MP sources in food items. Therefore, we should not be confined to the food itself when considering MPs in food, but should take all pollution possibilities into account. In this chapter, we reviewed the literature concerning MPs in seafood, table salt, drinking water, and other food items. The potential MP sources of food items during the whole process from food acquisition to human ingestion were analyzed, with related human intake of MPs estimated. We also discussed possible translocation and accumulation pathways of MPs within human body. Given the lifetime inevitable exposure to MPs through multiple pathways, we urgently call for a better understanding of the potential MP sources in food items and a comprehensive assessment of human intake.


Drinking water Health risks Microplastics Seafood Table salts 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support by the grants from the National Key Research and Development Program (2016YFC1402204).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Shanghai Key Laboratory for Urban Ecological Process and Eco-Restoration, School of Ecological and Environmental SciencesEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.College of OceanographyHohai UniversityNanjingChina
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal ResearchEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

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