Microplastic menace threatens Bangladesh’s Ecosystem and public health


In a groundbreaking study published in Elsevier’s ecotoxicology and environmental safety journal, researchers have unveiled the alarming infiltration of microplastic particles into riverbed sediments in Bangladesh, originating from India’s Ganges River.

This research marks a pivotal moment for Bangladesh as it is the first study to underscore the severe threat posed by microplastics in Transboundary Rivers to the marine ecosystem.

The findings reveal a disturbing pattern of microplastics accumulating during the 330-kilometre journey from the Ganges River basin to the Meghna estuary, creating potential hazards for land, water, and human health.

Researchers found tiny plastic particles of different colours and sizes, indicating the presence of microplastics both upstream and downstream in Bangladesh.

The rates of microplastics varied, with different concentrations observed in different locations.

Microplastics, identified as an “emerging” pollutant by the World Health Organization (WHO), pose a serious public health concern.

These minute particles, entering the human body through various pathways such as the environment, food, water, and air, have significant health implications.

Moreover, the ability of microplastics to float or sink based on concentration, duration, and degradation rate, coupled with the hazardous chemicals associated with them, poses a direct threat to aquatic life.


Despite the first total ban on plastic bags in the world introduced back in 2002, microplastics have been ubiquitously detected in the country’s inland and marine environment, with the majority of them coming from secondary sources.

The microplastics observed in Bangladesh were dominated by fibers, which were derived mainly from textile sources. Polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polypropylene and polyvinylchloride were the most abundant polymers found for microplastics in the marine and freshwater environment of Bangladesh.

Along with the identified research priorities to improve the understanding on the ecotoxicological effect and fate of microplastics, extensive and in-depth studies are required to bridge the knowledge gaps to enable comprehensive risk assessment of microplastic pollution on local ecosystems and human health, while effective management of plastic wastes and their recycling are necessary to alleviate this problem in the country.

We are now living in a plastic age where plastics are everywhere. Our research found a high level of microplastics in the river system, posing a threat to both human health and aquatic species.

Microplastics are considered a cause of cancer, containing harmful chemicals that can lead to various diseases.

They can affect the lungs, be found in the blood, and induce hormonal changes, impacting reproductive health.

In the face of this escalating crisis, widespread microplastic pollution demands immediate attention and monitoring.

Urgent collaborative efforts on both national and international levels are imperative to safeguard Bangladesh’s precious ecosystem and protect the health and well-being of its populace. The time for action is now.