Microplastics in soils inhibit worm growth

Microplastics stop worms from growing

Worms that live in microplastic soils do not continue to grow, they even lose body mass. This is further proof of the harmful effects of microplastics on our environment and the living things that occur in it.

The current study by Anglia Ruskin University has now determined that worms cannot continue to thrive in soils containing microplastics. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Environmental Science and Technology".

Earthworms lost weight

More and more microplastics are getting into our environment. The results show that this has a major impact on nature. Earthworms (Aporrectodea rosea), which came into contact with soil with high density polyethylene (HDPE) for 30 days, lost about three percent of their body weight compared to worms that lived in similar soils without polyethylene. These animals even gained five percent in body weight over the same period.

Does microplastics affect the digestion of worms?

The specific reasons for the observed weight loss are not yet clear, but the researchers suspect that they could be due to the effects of microplastics on the digestion of the worms. These effects include constipation and irritation of the digestive tract, limitation of nutrient intake and reduction in growth.

Fears of an impact on agriculture

If microplastics inhibit earthworm growth on a large scale, it could also affect soil health and agriculture, since worms are an integral part of the arable land ecosystem.

The extent of the contamination is largely unknown

The published study complements a growing number of studies that examine the effects of microscopic plastic particles on invertebrates and fish. Although it is still too early to draw conclusions about the effects on human health, studies have already shown that aquatic lugworms are damaged by the plastic particles. Potential harmful effects on fish and molluscs have also been identified. Microplastics have already been found, for example, in tap water, the oceans around the world, in human stool and in the air. In many places, soils are likely to house a large number of microplastic particles that are deposited in wastewater, water, and air due to their presence. However, the extent of the contamination is largely unknown, although there are European studies that report over 700 to 4,000 plastic particles per kilogram of soil in some agricultural areas. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Bas Boots, Connor William Russell, Dannielle Senga Green: Effects of Microplastics in Soil Ecosystems: Above and Below Ground, in Environmental Science and Technology (query: 12.09.2019), Environmental Science and Technology

Video: How Much Plastic Do You Eat? #OurBluePlanet. Earth Lab (January 2022).