Plastic Debris Is a Human Health Issue

A.D. Vethaak, H.A. Leslie

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The global threat of highly persistent plastic waste
accumulating and fragmenting in the world’s oceans,
inland waters and terrestrial environments is becoming
increasingly evident.1−3 Humans are being exposed to both
plastic particles and chemical additives being released from the
plastic debris of consumer society. This material is fragmenting,
leaching and spreading throughout the biosphere, including
indoor and outdoor air, soil, and water systems. What started as
a marine environmental contamination issue is in fact very
much a human health issue as well. What do we know so far
about the impacts of this plastic debris for humans?
Humans can be exposed to plastic particles via consumption
of seafood and terrestrial food products, drinking water and via
the air.1,4 Uptake of plastics by humans (and animals) can cause
adverse health effects by at least three possible means: particle toxicity, chemical toxicity and as a pathogen and parasite vector.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6825−6826
Number of pages2
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2016


  • plastic debris
  • human health
  • particle toxicity
  • microplastic
  • chemical toxicity
  • marine litter
  • pathogens

VU Research Profile

  • Science for Sustainability


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