Potent impact of plastic nanomaterials and micromaterials on the food chain and human health

Yung Li Wang, Yu Hsuan Lee, I. Jen Chiu, Yuh Feng Lin, Hui Wen Chiu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


Plastic products are inexpensive, convenient, and are have many applications in daily life. We overuse plastic-related products and ineffectively recycle plastic that is difficult to degrade. Plastic debris can be fragmented into smaller pieces by many physical and chemical processes. Plastic debris that is fragmented into microplastics or nanoplastics has unclear effects on organismal systems. Recently, this debris was shown to affect biota and to be gradually spreading through the food chain. In addition, studies have indicated that workers in plastic-related industries develop many kinds of cancer because of chronic exposure to high levels of airborne microplastics. Microplastics and nanoplastics are everywhere now, contaminating our water, air, and food chain. In this review, we introduce a classification of plastic polymers, define microplastics and nanoplastics, identify plastics that contaminate food, describe the damage and diseases caused by microplastics and nanoplastics, and the molecular and cellular mechanisms of this damage and disease as well as solutions for their amelioration. Thus, we expect to contribute to the understanding of the effects of microplastics and nanoplastics on cellular and molecular mechanisms and the ways that the uptake of microplastics and nanoplastics are potentially dangerous to our biota. After understanding the issues, we can focus on how to handle the problems caused by plastic overuse.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1727
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Food chain
  • Microplastics
  • Nanoplastics
  • Plastic products

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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