Ingestion of microplastics by fish and its potential consequences from a physical perspective

Integr Environ Assess Manag. 2017 May;13(3):510-515. doi: 10.1002/ieam.1913.


The European Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the United States Microbead Free Waters Act are credited for being ambitious in their goals for protecting the marine environment from microplastics pollution. As a result, the microplastic pollution of marine environments and the incidence of microplastic ingestion by fish is rapidly receiving an increase in overdue attention. This commentary summarizes recent discoveries regarding the potential negative effects of micro- and nanoplastic ingestion by fish. Analysis shows that the occurrence of microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract of fish is ephemeral, with low accumulation potential in the gastrointestinal tract, although translocation to the liver may occur. Nevertheless, the total load of micro- and nanoplastics that will pass through the gastrointestinal tract of a fish in its lifetime is likely high and will keep increasing in the future. This may pose a risk because there is evidence that micro- and nanoplastic ingestion can interfere with fish health. Observed effects of microplastics ingestion include (but are not necessarily limited to) intestinal blockage, physical damage, histopathological alterations in the intestines, change in behavior, change in lipid metabolism, and transfer to the liver. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2017;13:510-515. © 2017 SETAC.

Keywords: Histopathological alterations; Ingestion; Marine biology; Microplastics.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eating
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fishes*
  • Plastics / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Pollution, Chemical / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Water Pollution, Chemical / prevention & control
  • Water Pollution, Chemical / statistics & numerical data


  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical