How microplastic components influence the immune system and impact on children health: Focus on cancer

Birth Defects Res. 2020 Oct;112(17):1341-1361. doi: 10.1002/bdr2.1779. Epub 2020 Aug 6.


Background: As a result of human socioeconomic activity, industrial wastes have increased distressingly. Plastic pollution is globally distributed across the world due to its properties of buoyancy and durability. A big health hazard is the sorption of toxicants to plastic while traveling through the environment. Two broad classes of plastic-related chemicals are of critical concern for human health-bisphenols and phthalates. Bisphenol A (BPA) is an endocrine-disruptor compound (EDC) with estrogenic activity. It is used in the production of materials that are used daily. The endocrine modulating activity of BPA and its effects on reproductive health has been widely studied. BPA also has effects on the immune system; however, they are poorly investigated and the available data are inconclusive. Phthalates are also EDCs used as plasticizers in a wide array of daily-use products. Since these compounds are not covalently bound to the plastic matrix, they easily leach out from it, leading to high human exposure. These compounds exert several cell effects through modulating different endocrine pathways, such as estrogen, androgen, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma, and arylhydrocarbon receptor pathways. The exposure to both classes of plastic derivatives during critical periods has detrimental effects on human health.

Methods: In this review, we have compiled the most important of their perinatal effects on the function of the immune system and their relationship to the development of different types of cancer.

Results/conclusion: The administration of bisphenols and phthalates during critical stages of development affects important immune system components, and the immune function; which might be related to the development of different diseases including cancer.

Keywords: bisphenol A; cancer and critical periods of development; immune system; phthalates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Endocrine Disruptors* / toxicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Microplastics
  • Neoplasms*
  • Plastics
  • Pregnancy


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Microplastics
  • Plastics