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Special Issue "Microplastics: Hazards to Environmental and Human Health"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 January 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. A. Dick Vethaak

Deltares (and VU University Amsterdam), Boussinesqweg 1, 2629 HV Delft, The Netherlands
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +31 (0)6 51232412
Interests: plastic litter; nanoparticles; micro- and nanoplastics; emerging contaminants; endocrine disruption; mixture toxicity; ecosystem health; human health effects of chemicals and fine particles.

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

There has been increasing concern about the presence of microplastics, which are generally defined as plastic particles and fibres with a diameter <5 mm, with no lower limit. They are derived from progressive fragmentation of larger debris, or are purposefully made for use in personal care products, medicines, and industry. In addition to physical impacts of the plastic particles themselves, microplastics are associated with a complex mixture of chemicals that may transfer to humans and other organisms upon exposure. These chemicals include chemical additives, residual monomers and sorbed ambient chemical substances, many of which are endocrine-disrupting and hazardous compounds that can adversely affect human health and the environment. Microplastics may act also as a vector for dispersal of invasive species, including potential pathogens.

Microplastics have become increasingly prevalent in the oceans and seas, inland waters, soils, food webs, indoor and outdoor air. Consequently, public concerns about microplastics are mounting due to their unknown effects at the organismal level and the potential consequences for ecosystem functioning and human health. There is an expanding knowledge base on microplastics for marine and freshwater organisms and ecosystems, but our understanding of the potential human health effects from exposure to microplastics constitutes major knowledge gaps. Humans can be exposed to plastic particles via consumption of seafood and terrestrial food products, drinking water and via the air.  However, the level of human exposure, chronic toxic effect concentrations and underlying toxicological mechanisms by which microplastics elicit effects are still too poorly understood to make a full assessment of the risks to humans.

This Special Issue aims to start filling these big gaps in our knowledge and is concerned with all aspects of microplastic contamination that may affect human health. These include microplastics of all sizes, including nanosized particles and engineered polymeric nanoparticles. Impacts on human health could cover the latest research on key sources, oral and inhalation exposure levels, routes into the human body, in vitro effects, study of microplastics in animal models, cellular internalisation, particle toxicity, chemical and microbial hazards. Impacts on environmental health may include potential impacts on sentinel species, populations and ecosystems, accumulation and trophic transfer in food webs, development of appropriate biomarkers of exposure and effect. Papers on chemical mixture toxicity and risk assessment of plastic debris, and novel methods for identification and quantification of plastic particles in food, air, water, and biological matrices are welcome as well. 

Prof. Dr. A.D. (Dick) Vethaak
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Microplastic Contamination of Wild and Captive Flathead Grey Mullet (Mugil cephalus)
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(4), 597; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15040597
Received: 2 February 2018 / Revised: 20 March 2018 / Accepted: 23 March 2018 / Published: 26 March 2018
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (986 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
A total of 60 flathead grey mullets were examined for microplastic ingestion. Thirty wild mullets were captured from the eastern coast of Hong Kong and 30 captive mullets were obtained from fish farms. Microplastic ingestion was detected in 60% of the wild mullets,
[...] Read more.
A total of 60 flathead grey mullets were examined for microplastic ingestion. Thirty wild mullets were captured from the eastern coast of Hong Kong and 30 captive mullets were obtained from fish farms. Microplastic ingestion was detected in 60% of the wild mullets, with an average of 4.3 plastic items per mullet, while only 16.7% of captive mullets were found to have ingested microplastics, with an average of 0.2 items per mullet. The results suggested that wild mullets have a higher risk of microplastic ingestion than their captive counterparts. The most common plastic items were fibres that were green in colour and small in size (<2 mm). Polypropylene was the most common polymer (42%), followed by polyethylene (25%). In addition, the abundance of microplastics was positively correlated with larger body size among the mullets. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics: Hazards to Environmental and Human Health)
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Open AccessArticle Microplastics Reduce Short-Term Effects of Environmental Contaminants. Part II: Polyethylene Particles Decrease the Effect of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons on Microorganisms
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(2), 287; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15020287
Received: 30 November 2017 / Revised: 8 January 2018 / Accepted: 8 January 2018 / Published: 7 February 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (2450 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Microplastic particles in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are currently discussed as an emerging persistent organic pollutant and as acting as a vector for hydrophobic chemicals. Microplastic particles may ultimately deposit and accumulate in soil as well as marine and freshwater sediments where they
[...] Read more.
Microplastic particles in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are currently discussed as an emerging persistent organic pollutant and as acting as a vector for hydrophobic chemicals. Microplastic particles may ultimately deposit and accumulate in soil as well as marine and freshwater sediments where they can be harmful to organisms. In this study, we tested the sensitivity of natural freshwater sediment bacterial communities (by genetic fingerprint) to exposure to microplastics (polyethylene, 2 and 20 mg/g sediment) and microplastics loaded with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs, phenanthrene and anthracene), using a laboratory-based approach. After two weeks of incubation, the bacterial community composition from an unpolluted river section was altered by high concentrations of microplastics, whereas the community downstream of a wastewater treatment plant remained unchanged. Low microplastic concentrations loaded with phenanthrene or anthracene induced a less pronounced response in the sediment communities compared to the same total amount of phenanthrene or anthracene alone. In addition, biodegradation of the PAHs was reduced. This study shows, that microplastic can affect bacterial community composition in unpolluted freshwater sediments. Moreover, the results indicate that microplastics can serve as a vehicle for hydrophobic pollutants but bioavailability of the latter is reduced by the sorption to microplastics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics: Hazards to Environmental and Human Health)
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Open AccessArticle Microplastics Reduce Short-Term Effects of Environmental Contaminants. Part I: Effects of Bisphenol A on Freshwater Zooplankton Are Lower in Presence of Polyamide Particles
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(2), 280; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15020280
Received: 15 November 2017 / Revised: 12 January 2018 / Accepted: 1 February 2018 / Published: 6 February 2018
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (1206 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Microplastics can have direct physical effects on organisms in freshwater systems, and are considered as vectors for absorbed environmental pollutants. It is still under discussion if microplastics are relevant pollutant vectors for uptake into aquatic organisms in comparison to further uptake pathways, e.g.,
[...] Read more.
Microplastics can have direct physical effects on organisms in freshwater systems, and are considered as vectors for absorbed environmental pollutants. It is still under discussion if microplastics are relevant pollutant vectors for uptake into aquatic organisms in comparison to further uptake pathways, e.g., via water or sediment particles. We analyzed how the presence of microplastics (polyamide particles, PA) modifies acute effects of the environmental pollutant bisphenol A (BPA) on freshwater zooplankton (Daphnia magna). Daphnids were exposed to PA particles and BPA alone, before combining them in the next step with one concentration of PA and varying concentrations of BPA. The PA particles themselves did not induce negative effects, while the effects of BPA alone followed a typical dose-dependent manner. Sorption of BPA to PA particles prior to exposure led to a reduction of BPA in the aqueous phase. The combination of BPA and PA led to decreased immobilization, although PA particles loaded with BPA were ingested by the daphnids. Calculations based on physiochemistry and equilibrium assumptions indicated lower BPA body burden of daphnids in the presence of PA particles. These results confirm model-based studies, and show that investigated microplastic concentrations are negligible for the overall pollutant uptake of daphnids with water as additional uptake pathway. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics: Hazards to Environmental and Human Health)
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Open AccessArticle Biodegradable and Petroleum-Based Microplastics Do Not Differ in Their Ingestion and Excretion but in Their Biological Effects in a Freshwater Invertebrate Gammarus fossarum
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(7), 774; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14070774
Received: 30 May 2017 / Revised: 10 July 2017 / Accepted: 10 July 2017 / Published: 13 July 2017
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (1707 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Research on the uptake and effects of bioplastics by aquatic organisms is still in its infancy. Here, we aim to advance the field by comparing uptake and effects of microplastic particles (MPP) of a biodegradable bioMPP (polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB)) and petroleum-based MPP (polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA))
[...] Read more.
Research on the uptake and effects of bioplastics by aquatic organisms is still in its infancy. Here, we aim to advance the field by comparing uptake and effects of microplastic particles (MPP) of a biodegradable bioMPP (polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB)) and petroleum-based MPP (polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA)) in the freshwater amphipod Gammarus fossarum. Ingestion of both MPP in different particle sizes (32–250 µm) occurred after 24 h, with highest ingestion of particles in the range 32–63 µm and almost complete egestion after 64 h. A four-week effect-experiment showed a significant decrease of the assimilation efficiency in amphipods exposed to the petroleum-based MPP from week two onwards. The petroleum-based PMMA affected assimilation efficiency significantly in contrast to the biodegradable PHB, but overall differences in direct comparison of MPP types were small. Both MPP types led to a significantly lower wet weight gain relative to the control treatments. After four weeks, differences between both MPP types and silica, used as a natural particle control, were detected. In summary, these results suggest that both MPP types provoke digestive constraints on the amphipods, which go beyond those of natural non-palatable particles. This highlights the need for more detailed research comparing environmental effects of biodegradable and petroleum-based MPP and testing those against naturally occurring particle loads. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics: Hazards to Environmental and Human Health)
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Review

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Open AccessReview Wear and Tear of Tyres: A Stealthy Source of Microplastics in the Environment
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(10), 1265; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14101265
Received: 31 July 2017 / Revised: 11 October 2017 / Accepted: 16 October 2017 / Published: 20 October 2017
Cited by 9 | PDF Full-text (1273 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Wear and tear from tyres significantly contributes to the flow of (micro-)plastics into the environment. This paper compiles the fragmented knowledge on tyre wear and tear characteristics, amounts of particles emitted, pathways in the environment, and the possible effects on humans. The estimated
[...] Read more.
Wear and tear from tyres significantly contributes to the flow of (micro-)plastics into the environment. This paper compiles the fragmented knowledge on tyre wear and tear characteristics, amounts of particles emitted, pathways in the environment, and the possible effects on humans. The estimated per capita emission ranges from 0.23 to 4.7 kg/year, with a global average of 0.81 kg/year. The emissions from car tyres (100%) are substantially higher than those of other sources of microplastics, e.g., airplane tyres (2%), artificial turf (12–50%), brake wear (8%) and road markings (5%). Emissions and pathways depend on local factors like road type or sewage systems. The relative contribution of tyre wear and tear to the total global amount of plastics ending up in our oceans is estimated to be 5–10%. In air, 3–7% of the particulate matter (PM2.5) is estimated to consist of tyre wear and tear, indicating that it may contribute to the global health burden of air pollution which has been projected by the World Health Organization (WHO) at 3 million deaths in 2012. The wear and tear also enters our food chain, but further research is needed to assess human health risks. It is concluded here that tyre wear and tear is a stealthy source of microplastics in our environment, which can only be addressed effectively if awareness increases, knowledge gaps on quantities and effects are being closed, and creative technical solutions are being sought. This requires a global effort from all stakeholders; consumers, regulators, industry and researchers alike. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics: Hazards to Environmental and Human Health)
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