Ecological and health issues of plastic waste

Cayla R. Cook, Rolf U. Halden

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

37 Scopus citations


Plastic waste poses a spectrum of risks to wildlife and human populations. In this chapter, we provide an overview of principal hazards created by discarded plastics. Discussed are entrapment of animals and habitat destruction, hazards related to the ingestion of plastics, as and impacts of plastic components on mammalian and human health, with notable outcomes including endocrine disruption, psychological and neurological effects, and impairment of liver and kidney function. Important sources of exposure to plastic components include ingestion of contaminated food products, leaching of plastic components from plastic packaging, and inhalation of microplastics in the form of airborne fibers and dust. Potential strategies for reducing exposure to plastics include the use of nonsynthetic food packaging materials, avoidance of high-risk plastic polymers, avoidance of foods known to be enriched in microplastics, and a reduction of plastic use to decrease production volume and to limit the chances of polymers to escape from recycling and solid waste management process streams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPlastic Waste and Recycling
Subtitle of host publicationEnvironmental Impact, Societal Issues, Prevention, and Solutions
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780128178805
ISBN (Print)9780128178812
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Ecology
  • Human health
  • Ingestion
  • Microplastics
  • Polymer-associated additives
  • Synthetic polymers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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