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Microplastic contamination of seafood intended for human consumption: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Danopoulos, Evan; Jenner, Lauren; Twiddy, Maureen; Rotchell, Jeanette M.


Evan Danopoulos

Lauren Jenner


Background: Microplastics (MPs) have contaminated all compartments of the marine environment including biota such as seafood; ingestion from such sources is one of the two major uptake routes identified for human exposure.
Objectives: The objectives were to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of the levels of MP contamination in seafood, and to subsequently estimate the annual human uptake.
Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE and Web of Science were searched from launch (1947, 1974 and 1900, respectively) up to October 2020 for all studies reporting MP content in seafood species. Mean, standard deviations (SD) and ranges of MPs found were collated. Studies were appraised systematically using a bespoke Risk of Bias (RoB) assessment tool.
Results: Fifty studies were included in the systematic review and 19 in the meta-analysis. Evidence was available on four phyla; molluscs, crustaceans, fish and echinodermata. The majority of studies identified MP contamination in seafood and reported MP content below 1MPs/g (microplastics per gram), with 26% of studies rated as having high RoB, mainly due to analysis or reporting weaknesses. Molluscs collected off the coasts of Asia were the most heavily contaminated, coinciding with
reported trends of MP contamination in the sea. According to the statistical summary, MP content was 0-10.5 MPs/g in molluscs, 0.1-8.6 MPs/g in crustaceans, 0-2.9 MPs/g in fish and 1MPs/g in echinodermata. Maximum annual human MP uptake was estimated to be close to 55,000 MP particles. Statistical, sample and methodological heterogeneity was high.
Discussion: This is the first systematic review, to our knowledge, to assess and quantify MP contamination of seafood and human uptake from its consumption, suggesting that action must be considered in order to reduce human exposure via such consumption. Further high-quality research using standardized methods is needed to cement the scientific evidence on MP contamination and human exposures.


Danopoulos, E., Jenner, L., Twiddy, M., & Rotchell, J. M. (2020). Microplastic contamination of seafood intended for human consumption: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, 128(12), 126002-1-126002-32.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Nov 20, 2020
Online Publication Date Dec 23, 2020
Publication Date 2020-12
Deposit Date Dec 9, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 4, 2021
Journal Environmental Health Perspectives
Print ISSN 0091-6765
Electronic ISSN 1552-9924
Publisher National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 128
Issue 12
Article Number 126002
Pages 126002-1-126002-32
Public URL
Publisher URL


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