Environmental health impacts of microplastics exposure on structural organization levels in the human body

Xi Yang, Yu Bon Man, Ming Hung Wong, Richard Bernhart Owen, Ka Lai Chow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


The ubiquitous prevalence of microplastics pollution has raised concerns about microplastics' potential risks and impacts on the global environment. However, the potential human health risks and impacts of microplastics remain largely unexplored. By providing an overview regarding the interaction of microplastics and human health, this review extends current knowledge on the potential impacts of microplastics pollution on humans from an environmental health perspective. The paper firstly presents the characteristics of microplastics as well as the status of global microplastics pollution. As for human health, the potential hazards of microplastics are reflected by toxic chemical components, vectors of contaminants, and physical damage. Extensive microplastic pollution on ecosystems due to human activities leads to inevitable human exposure, which may occur by dietary, inhalation and/or skin contact. Accordingly, microplastics exposure is closely associated with human health. This study explores the potential interactions of microplastics with the biological organization at various levels, including chemical, cellular, tissue, organ, and system levels. The review concludes by highlighting five urgent perspectives and implications for future research on microplastics: 1) Developing a standard terminology and research methods; 2) Reinforcing microplastics pollution governance; 3) Exploring innovative strategies and technologies; 4) Engaging the public and change behaviour; and 5) Adopting a transdisciplinary approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number154025
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

User-Defined Keywords

  • Environmental health
  • Human health risk
  • Microplastics exposure routes
  • Microplastics toxicity studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Environmental health impacts of microplastics exposure on structural organization levels in the human body'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this