Microplastic pollution, a threat to marine ecosystem and human health: a short review

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2017 Sep;24(27):21530-21547. doi: 10.1007/s11356-017-9910-8. Epub 2017 Aug 16.


Human populations are using oceans as their household dustbins, and microplastic is one of the components which are not only polluting shorelines but also freshwater bodies globally. Microplastics are generally referred to particles with a size lower than 5 mm. These microplastics are tiny plastic granules and used as scrubbers in cosmetics, hand cleansers, air-blasting. These contaminants are omnipresent within almost all marine environments at present. The durability of plastics makes it highly resistant to degradation and through indiscriminate disposal they enter in the aquatic environment. Today, it is an issue of increasing scientific concern because these microparticles due to their small size are easily accessible to a wide range of aquatic organisms and ultimately transferred along food web. The chronic biological effects in marine organisms results due to accumulation of microplastics in their cells and tissues. The potential hazardous effects on humans by alternate ingestion of microparticles can cause alteration in chromosomes which lead to infertility, obesity, and cancer. Because of the recent threat of microplastics to marine biota as well as on human health, it is important to control excessive use of plastic additives and to introduce certain legislations and policies to regulate the sources of plastic litter. By setup various plastic recycling process or promoting plastic awareness programmes through different social and information media, we will be able to clean our sea dustbin in future.

Keywords: Environmental policies; Food web; Harmful effects; Marine biota; Microbeads; Microplastic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aquatic Organisms / drug effects
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Humans
  • Particle Size
  • Plastics / chemistry
  • Plastics / toxicity*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical