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A Review of Microplastics in Table Salt, Drinking Water, and Air: Direct Human Exposure

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journal contribution
posted on 11.03.2020, 18:49 by Qun Zhang, Elvis Genbo Xu, Jiana Li, Qiqing Chen, Liping Ma, Eddy Y. Zeng, Huahong Shi
The ubiquity of microplastics in aquatic and terrestrial environments and related ecological impacts have gained global attention. Microplastics have been detected in table salt, drinking water, and air, posing inevitable human exposure risk. However, rigorous analytical methods for detection and characterization of microplastics remain scarce. Knowledge about the potential adverse effects on human health via dietary and respiratory exposures is also limited. To address these issues, we reviewed 46 publications concerning abundances, potential sources, and analytical methods of microplastics in table salt, drinking water, and air. We also summarized probable translocation and accumulation pathways of microplastics within human body. Human body burdens of microplastics through table salt, drinking water, and inhalation were estimated to be (0–7.3)×104, (0–4.7)×103, and (0–3.0)×107 items per person per year, respectively. The intake of microplastics via inhalation, especially via indoor air, was much higher than those via other exposure routes. Moreover, microplastics in the air impose threats to both respiratory and digestive systems through breathing and ingestion. Given the lifetime inevitable exposure to microplastics, we urgently call for a better understanding of the potential hazards of microplastics to human health.