Tissue accumulation of microplastics and potential health risks in human

Sci Total Environ. 2024 Mar 10:915:170004. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2024.170004. Epub 2024 Jan 12.


Microplastics have become ubiquitous throughout the environment. Humans constantly ingest and inhale microplastics, increasing concerns about the health risks of microplastic exposure. However, limited data impedes a full understanding of the internal exposure to microplastics. Herein, to evaluate microplastic exposure via the respiratory and digestive systems, we used laser direct infrared spectroscopy to identify microplastics >20 μm in size in different human tissues. Consequently, 20-100 μm microplastics were concentrated in all tissues, with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) being the dominant polymer. The highest abundance of microplastics was detected in lung tissue with an average of 14.19 ± 14.57 particles/g, followed by that in the small intestine, large intestine, and tonsil (9.45 ± 13.13, 7.91 ± 7.00, and 6.03 ± 7.37 particles/g, respectively). The abundance of microplastics was also significantly greater in females than in males (p < 0.05). Despite significant diversity, our estimation showed that the lungs accumulated the highest amounts of microplastic. Moreover, PVC particles may cause potential health risks because of their high polymer hazard index and maximal risk level. This study provides evidence regarding the occurrence of microplastics in humans and empirical data to support assessments of the health risks posed by microplastics.

Keywords: Exposure and hazard; Health risk; Human tissue; Laser direct infrared spectroscopy; Plastic particle.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Microplastics*
  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis


  • Microplastics
  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical