Small Plastics, Big Inflammatory Problems

Yolanda Prado, Cristobal Aravena, Diego Aravena, Felipe Eltit, Sebastian Gatica, Claudia A. Riedel, Felipe Simon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The immune system is the first defense against potentially dangerous chemicals, infections, and damaged cells. Interactions between immune cells and inflammatory mediators increase the coordinated activation of cross-talking signaling pathways, resulting in an acute response necessary to restore homeostasis but potentially detrimental if uncontrolled and prolonged. Plastic production exceeds million tons per year, becoming a global concern due to the stability of its constituent polymers, low density, which allows them to spread easily, and small size, which prevents proper removal by wastewater treatment plants, promoting environmental accumulation and increasing health threats. The interaction between plastic particles and the immune system is still being investigated, owing to growing evidence of increased risk not only for dietary intake due to its presence in food packaging, drinking water, and even fruits and vegetables, but also to emerging evidence of new intake pathways such as respiratory and cutaneous. We discuss in depth the impact of small plastic particles on the immune response across the body, with a focus on the nervous system and peripheral organs and tissues such as the gastrointestinal, respiratory, lymphatic, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems, as well as the involvement in increased susceptibility to worsening concomitant diseases and future perspectives in the exploration of potential therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-127
Number of pages27
JournalAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Cytokynes
  • Inflammation
  • Microplastics
  • Nanoplastics
  • Oxidative stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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