Absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion and toxicity of microplastics in the human body and health implications

Pengfei Wu, Siyi Lin, Guodong Cao, Jiabin Wu, Hangbiao Jin, Chen Wang, Ming Hung Wong, Zhu Yang*, Zongwei Cai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


Microplastics (MPs; <5 mm) in the biosphere draws public concern about their potential health impacts. Humans are potentially exposed to MPs via ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact. Ingestion and inhalation are the two major exposure pathways. An adult may consume approximately 5.1 × 103 items from table salts and up to 4.1 × 104 items via drinking water annually. Meanwhile, MP inhalation intake ranges from 0.9 × 104 to 7.9 × 104 items per year. The intake of MPs would be further distributed in different tissues and organs of humans depending on their sizes. The excretion has been discussed with the possible clearance ways (e.g., urine and feces). The review summarized the absorption, distribution, metabolic toxicity and excretion of MPs together with the attached chemicals. Moreover, the potential implications on humans are also discussed from in vitro and in vivo studies, and connecting the relationship between the physicochemical properties and the potential risks. This review will contribute to a better understanding of MPs as culprits and/or vectors linking to potential human health hazards, which will help outline the promising areas for further revealing the possible toxicity pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129361
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

User-Defined Keywords

  • Exposure Pathways
  • Microplastics
  • Nanoplastics
  • Plasticizer
  • Toxicity Assessments


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