Microplastic profusion in food and drinking water: are microplastics becoming a macroproblem?
Microplastics are extremely complex, and as the food chain comes full circle, it is dreaded that these could have a deleterious influence on humans. Although the risk of plastics to humans is not yet established, their occurrence in food and water destined for human consumption has been reported. The prevalence of micro-sized plastics in the ecosystem and living organisms, their trophic transfer along the food web, and the discernment of food species as competent indicators have become research priorities. The scale of the issue is massive, but what are the main culprits and causes, and could there be a solution in sight for this global problem? Despite the massive amount of research in the field, a collation of available data and pertinent hazard evaluation remains difficult. In order to identify the knowledge gaps and exposure pathways, several traits related to food chain assessment are presented with the goal of properly evaluating and managing this emerging risk. We apprehend three possible noxious consequences of small plastic particles, firstly, due to the plastic particles themselves; secondly, due to the extrication of tenacious organic pollutants adsorbed onto the plastics; and thirdly, due to the leaching of components such as monomers and additives from the plastics. The exigency for the standardization of protocols to bring about consistency in data collection and analysis, involving solutions, stakeholder costs, and benefits, are discussed. Harmonized methods will enable meticulous assessment of the impacts and threats that microplastics pose to the biota and increase the comparability between studies. We emphasize the contribution of the “honest broker” in science, providing an overarching analysis to devise the most viable solutions to microplastic pollution for private and public leadership to utilize.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts: Recent Review Articles