In vitro chemical and physical toxicities of polystyrene microfragments in human-derived cells

Daheui Choi, Junah Bang, Taeho Kim, Yoogyeong Oh, Youngdeok Hwang, Jinkee Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


With the increase in plastic production, a variety of toxicological studies on microplastics have been conducted as microplastics can be accumulated in the human body and cause unknown disease. However, previous studies have mainly assessed the toxicity of sphere-type microbeads, which may differ from randomly-shaped microplastics in a real environment. Here, we conducted in vitro toxicology analysis for randomly-shaped microplastics based on the hypotheses that (1) physical cytotoxicity is affected by nano-/micro-size roughness in polystyrene (PS) microfragments and (2) chemical toxicity is caused by chemical reagents from microplastics. We confirmed that the PS microfragments increased the acute inflammation of immune cells 20 times than control, the production of reactive oxygen species, and cell death of fibroblasts and cancer cells by releasing chemical reagents. In addition, when the PS microfragments were in direct contact with fibroblasts and red blood cells, the physical stress caused by them resulted in lactose dehydrogenase and hemoglobin release, respectively, due to cell membrane damage and hemolysis. This phenomenon was amplified when the concentration and roughness of the microfragments increased. Moreover, we quantitatively analyzed roughness differences between microplastics, which revealed a strong relationship between the physical damage of cells and the roughness of microplastics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number123308
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec 5

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT ( NRF-2017R1E1A1A01074343 ). The Bio & Medical Technology Development Program of the National Research Foundation (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science & ICT ( NRF-2016M3A9C6917405 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'In vitro chemical and physical toxicities of polystyrene microfragments in human-derived cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this