As plastic waste proliferates around the world, an essential question remains unanswered: What harm, if any, does it cause to human health?
A few years ago, as microplastics began turning up in the guts of fish and shellfish, the concern was focused on the safety of seafood. Shellfish were a particular worry, because in their case, unlike fish, we eat the entire animal—stomach, microplastics and all. In 2017, Belgian scientists announced that seafood lovers could consume up to 11,000 plastic particles a year by eating mussels, a favorite dish in that country.
By then, however, scientists already understood that plastics continuously fragment in the environment, shredding over time into fibers even smaller than a strand of human hair —particles so small they