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Health risk of human exposure to microplastics: a review

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Microplastics are emerging contaminants that have been detected recently in most environmental and biological systems, yet their health risk for humans has not been clearly summarized. Here we review human health risk associated with exposure to microplastics with focus on methods of exposure assessment, hazard identification, dose–response assessment, exposure assessment, and risk characterization. Hazards include direct hazards, hazards from contaminants released by microplastics, and hazards from microplastic interactions with surrounding contaminants. Microplastics trigger oxidative stress, disrupt metabolism, interfere with gut microflora and gastrointestinal functions, disrupt hepatic, cardiopulmonary and immune systems, and degrade reproductive health. Some additives leached from microplastics such as phthalates are endocrine disruptors and thus impact reproductive health. The interaction of microplastics with other pollutants in the environment induces varied hazards following synergistic or antagonistic effects.

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KHDT contributed to the conceptualization of the review, the writing and editing of original draft, and project administration; RL contributed to the writing of original draft; ZL and DW contributed to the review and editing of the original draft. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kuok Ho Daniel Tang.

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Tang, K.H.D., Li, R., Li, Z. et al. Health risk of human exposure to microplastics: a review. Environ Chem Lett 22, 1155–1183 (2024).

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