Article published in the AHVMA JOURNAL, Vol. 57, Winter 2019. P 19-21 From Mineral Oil and Multiple Sclerosis to Plastics, Nanoparticles, Public, Animal, and Environmental Health Michael W. Fox, BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS Author contact: Email IPAN@erols.com Website www.drfoxonehealth.com
Abbreviations MS Multiple sclerosis PAH Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon
USP Grade mineral oil and petroleum jelly are byproducts of refining crude oil and petroleum. Sold in pharmacies across the U.S., they are used in lotions, sunscreen, cosmetics, and ointments, liberally applied to babies as well as the entire body after showering in the belief that this is good for the human skin. From a chemical point of view, mineral oil and petroleum jelly are “purified” mixtures of long-chain saturated hydrocarbons (also known as alkanes or paraffin) existing as solids and liquids of the general formula (CnH2n+2). These polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are of growing public health concern (1).
Lipophilic and hydrophobic petrochemicals in mineral oil may damage the insulating fatty myelin sheath over the nerves, a process called demyelinization (2). Consideration of bioaccumulation as the human body absorbs these hydrocarbons and fat solvents is paramount.
Many PAHs have toxic, neurologic mutagenic, and/or carcinogenic properties (3). PAHs are highly lipid soluble and thus readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract of mammals. They are rapidly distributed in a wide variety of tissues with a marked tendency for localization in body fat. Metabolism of PAHs occurs via the cytochrome P450-mediated mixed function oxidase system, with oxidation or hydrolysis as the first step. The oxidative impact on cells may cause a pathological opening of the permeability transition pore and cause mitochondrial dysfunction which may lead to multiple sclerosis (MS) that may not be simply an autoimmune disease (4).
Testing should be done to explore the plausible hypothesis that there will be a significant decline in the incidence and severity of MS and other neurodegenerative diseases when governments limit the consumer use of mineral oil and advise strongly against frequent cutaneous application. Like some other demyelinating neuropathies, multiple sclerosis is a multifactorial, pluricausal disease for which there is no solution beyond applying the precautionary principle of best prevention first. Public health and consumer and environmental protection go hand in hand but are too often divided by vested interests and conflicting values and opinions.
Environmental Health Concerns Petrochemical products from a host of items ranging from plastic water bottles, grocery bags, and styrofoam cups and packing materials to disposable pens and lighters are pervasive and a top environmental and public health issue (5-7). Polystyrene plastic cups break down into small particles that become a magnet for toxic chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in polluted sea and fresh water. As plastic debris floats in the seawater, it absorbs dangerous pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT, and PAHs. These chemicals are highly toxic and have a wide range of chronic effects, including endocrine disruption and cancer-causing mutations. Plastic microparticles, present in many drinking water sources and sea foods, can pass though the gut wall, possibly crossing the blood-brain barrier (8).
Plastics in Pet Foods Large pieces of plastic in manufactured pet foods occur on occasion and have resulted in nationwide pet food recalls. Microparticles of plastic may be in many pet foods because the plastic wrappings and packaging around discarded meat and poultry products, no longer fresh enough for human consumption, are recycled, rendered, and subsequently included in pet foods, in addition to livestock and poultry feed. Plastics have even been fed to cattle as a substitute for fiber, ostensibly to improve digestion. As with human foods and beverages in plastic containers, leaching from the plastic pet food bags and liners calls for immediate pet food industry attention (9).
Plastics may be applied directly onto pet foods as a preservative to increase shelf-life. Hill’s Pet Nutrition has received a patent on various coatings for dry kibble, treats, and other pet foods and supplements, some of which include petrochemicals such as polyethylene and methacrylate (10). Using such chemicals in manufactured pet foods could have unforeseen adverse health consequences as has been documented with earlier food-chemistry-based dietary formulations for dogs and cats (11).
Plastics Contribute to Climate Change The plastics manufacturing industry is becoming the biggest user of fossil fuels, and some 100 million metric tons now pollute the oceans (12). Without curtailing such pollution and with rising demand for plastics, life on Earth will be compromised, since over half of atmospheric oxygen is generated by marine plankton currently at risk from these and other petrochemicals in their environment (13).
These founders of the aquatic food chain along with coral reefs are also at risk from sea water acidification due to high levels of carbon dioxide produced mainly from the burning of fossil fuels. Forest fires associated with habitat and climate change add to the problem of rising carbon dioxide and lower oxygen levels. Phytoplankton are decimated by agrichemical-runoff, in particular herbicides, but also by microplastics (14).
Low oxygen levels in major cities have recently been reported. This may be due in part to the decline in oxygen producing and carbon fixing phytoplankton. Climate change, one aspect of a looming global eco-crisis, includes changes in atmospheric gases that support life and shield from harmful solar rays (15). Marine mammals and other ocean-dependent wildlife are washing up on our shores with signs of extreme malnourishment as well as toxic pollution. Their condition, along with weakened immune systems and reduced fertility, may be primarily due to microplastics contaminating and killing off zooplankton, the foundation of their food chain (16).
Collectively, in my opinion, plastics and other petrochemical products represent one of the most harmful contributions of the chemical industry to health and life because the issues of containment and safe disposal have never been considered. The atmospheric transport and terrestrial deposition of plastic microparticles are now documented (17, 18). Such consideration is most urgent for the planet’s detoxification and our recovery from the Industrial Age of Chemistry with its adverse impacts on environmental and public health, the judicious use of insecticides and antimicrobials notwithstanding. The growing recognition of such anthropogenic factors in the genesis of “diseases of civilization” and ecological and physiological dysbiosis has spawned the One Health concept and movement in medical and veterinary practice, teaching, and research (19). We must quickly create and expand alternative products based on eco-friendly biochemical processes such as contained bio-fermentation and biosynthesis, bioremediation, sustainable biofuels, and other alternative energy sources. Consideration should be given to natural clothing and other materials derived from sources like cotton and hemp that are recyclable and biodegrade into non-toxic components. Efforts local and international to recover plastic materials from all contaminated aquatic ecosystems and unsealed land-fills need to be initiated for the common good. Disposing of plastics by burning/incineration should be avoided since highly toxic dioxins will then be released into the environment.
References 1.Abdel-Shafy HI, Mansour MSM. A review on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: Source, environmental impact, effect on human health and remediation. Egypt J Petrol. 2016;25(1):107-123.
Landtblom AM, Flodin U, Söderfeldt B, Wolfson C, Axelson O. Organic solvents and multiple sclerosis: a synthesis of the current evidence. Epidemiology. 1996;7(4):429-433.
Zeliger, H.I., Exposure to lipophilic chemicals as a cause of neurological impairments, neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Interdiscip Toxicol. 2013;6:(3):103–11.
Su K, Bourdette D, Forte M. Mitochondrial dysfunction and neurodegeneration in multiple sclerosis. Front Physiol. 2013;4:169.
Rochman CM, Manzano C, Hentschel BT, Simonich SL, Hoh E. Polystyrene plastic: a source and sink for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the marine environment. Environ Sci Technol. 2013;47(24):13976-13984.
Jacobs, DS, Huang S-R, Cheng Y-L, et al. Surface degradation and nanoparticle release of a commercial nanosilica/polyurethane coating under UV exposure. J Coatings Technol Res. 2016;13(5):735-751.
Mattsson K, Johnson EV, Malmendal A, Linse S, Hansson LA, Cedervall T. Brain damage and behavioural disorders in fish induced by plastic nanoparticles delivered through the food chain. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):11452.
Cedervall T, Hansson LA, Lard M, Frohm B, Linse S. Food chain transport of nanoparticles affects behaviour and fat metabolism in fish. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e32254.
Cooper JE, Kendig EL, Belcher SM. Assessment of bisphenol A released from reusable plastic, aluminium and stainless steel water bottles. Chemosphere. 2011;85(6):943-947.
Google Patents. Coated pet food composition. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/coatingpatent. Accessed April 10, 2019.
Fox, M.W., Hodgkins, E. Smart, M.E. Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Food. Fresno CA. Quill Driver Books, 2009.
International Energy Agency. The Future of Petrochemicals. Available at:https://www.iea.org/petrochemicals/. Accessed April 10, 2019.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Marine organisms produce over half of the oxygen that land animals need to breathe. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/NOAAMarineO2. Accessed April 10, 2019.
Sjollema SB, Redondo-Hasselerharm P, Leslie HA, Kraak MHS, Vethaak D. Do plastic particles affect microalgal photosynthesis and growth? Aqua Tox. 2016;170:259-261.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC approved by governments. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/IPCCglobalwarming. Accessed April 10, 2019.
Vroom R, Halsband C, Besseling E, Koelmans aA. Effects of microplastics on zooplankton: microplastic ingestion: the role of taste. Proceedings ICES/PICES 6th Zooplankton Production Symposium. 2016.
Allen S, Allen D, Phoenix VR, et al. Atmospheric transport and deposition of microplastics in a remote mountain catchment. Nat Geosci. 2019;12(5):339-344.
Wetherbee, G., Baldwin A, Ranville. J. It is raining plastic. U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey. Open-File Report 2019;1048. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/Raining-plastic. Published 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.
Fox MW. Healing animals & the vision of one health. Tallevast, FL: One Health Vision Press; 2011:180-188.
Verma R, Vinoda KS, Papireddy M, Gowda ANS. Toxic pollutants from plastic waste- a review. Procedia Environ Sci. 2016;(35):701-708.
In a 2018 report, The Future of Petrochemicals from the International Energy Agency ( https://www.iea.org/petrochemicals/) the plastics manufacturing industry is seen as becoming the biggest user of fossil fuels and some 100 million metric tons now pollute the oceans. Without curtailing such pollution and with rising demand for plastics, life on Earth will be compromised since over half of atmospheric oxygen is generated by marine plankton currently at risk from these and other petrochemicals in their environment. (https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/facts/oceanproduction.html).
These founders of the aquatic food chain along with coral reefs are also at risk from sea water acidification due to high levels of carbon dioxide produced mainly from the burning of fossil fuels. Forest fires associated with habitat and climate change add to the problem of rising carbon dioxide and lower oxygen levels. Phytoplankton are decimated by agrichemical-runoff, herbicides in particular, and also by microplastics. (see
Low oxygen levels in major cities have recently been reported. Climate change*, one aspect of a looming global eco-crisis, includes changes in atmospheric gases that support life and shield from harmful solar rays. The Guardian newspaper reported (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/aug/13/carbonemissions.climatechange):
“Currently the oxygen content of the Earth’s atmosphere dips to 19% over impacted areas, and it is down to 12 to 17% over the major cities. At these levels it is difficult for people to get sufficient oxygen to maintain bodily health: it takes a proper intake of oxygen to keep body cells and organs, and the entire immune system, functioning at full efficiency. At the levels we have reached today cancers and other degenerative diseases are likely to develop. And at 6 to 7% life can no longer be sustained.”
Marine mammals and other ocean-dependent wildlife are washing up on our shores showing signs of extreme malnourishment as well as toxic pollution. Their condition, along with weakened immune systems and reduced fertility may be primarily due to microplastics contaminating and killing off zooplankton, the foundation of their food chain. ( http://www.ices.dk/news-and-events/symposia/zp6/Pages/Effects-of-microplastics-on-zooplankton.aspx).
(* For a scientific consensus in rising global temperature see Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ipcc.ch/pdf/session48/pr_181008_P48_spm_en.pdf 8 October 2018 Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC approved by governments).
Common plastics emit greenhouse gases such as methane and ethylene as they degrade in the environment. Sunlight triggers the breakdown of plastic, but once the process starts, greenhouse gas emissions continue in the dark. All of the polymers tested give off methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, and ethylene, which contributes to carbon monoxide formation in the atmosphere. Low-density polyethylene, the most commonly used form of plastic worldwide (it’s used in plastic grocery bags), is the highest emitter of both gases. Microplastics in the ocean may be, ounce for ounce, the worst form of plastic where greenhouse gas emissions are concerned. (18)
Collectively these various petrochemical products represent one of the most harmful contributions of the chemical industry to health and life because the issues of containment and safe disposal have never been considered. Such consideration is most urgent the planet’s detoxification and our recovery from the Industrial Age of Chemistry with its adverse impacts on environmental and public health. The growing recognition of such anthropogenic factors in the genesis of “diseases of civilization” and ecological and physiological dysbiosis has spawned the One Health concept and movement in medical and veterinary practice, teaching and research (19). We must quickly create and expand alternative products based on eco-friendly biochemical processes such as contained bio-fermentation and biosynthesis, bio-remediation, sustainable biofuels and other alternative energy sources and natural clothing and other materials derived from cotton, hemp etc. that are recyclable and biodegrade into non-toxic components. Efforts local and international to recover plastic materials from all contaminated terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (20) need to be initiated for the common good. This monumental task calls for a United Environmental Nations Organization that bases free and fair trade and commerce on ecological principles of sustainability and environmental and public health.
Large pieces of plastic in manufactured pet foods occur on occasion and have resulted in nation-wide pet food recalls. But microparticles of plastic may be in many pet foods because the plastic wrappings and packaging around discarded meat and poultry products no longer fresh enough for human consumption are recycled, rendered and subsequently included in pet foods and also livestock and poultry feed. Plastics have even been fed to cattle as a substitute for fiber to ostensibly improve digestion.
As with human foods and beverages in plastic containers, leaching from the plastic pet food bags and liners call for immediate pet food industry attention. (For details see Which Plastics Are Safe? | Care2 Healthy Living https://www.care2.com/greenliving/which-plastics-are-safe.html).
On Sept. 21, 2012 www.truthaboutpetfood.com posted that plastics may be applied directly on to pet foods as a preservative since Hill’s Pet Nutrition has been provided with a patent for “a composition comprising a physically discrete pet food oral intake composition with a physically stable film…”This patent…invention is “a method for increasing the shelf life…or protects the composition from bacterial growth…” “For example these include a dry pet food comprising kibbles, bits, any other discrete materials, solid treat, supplements and the like, and even “chunks” in a chunk and gravy wet diet assuming the film can be properly applied to the chunk in the food processing and remain stable in the liquid environment of the container.—- The chemical used in coating the pet food is a polymer which should be physically stable during the process of its application and also stable during its lifetime on the pet food composition surface while being subjected to any further processing steps. Examples of these polymers include zein, casein, starch(es), cellulose(s), gum(s), gelatin, starch/synthetic polymer(s), e.g starch/low density polyethylene, and the like..” ( My emphasis on polyethylene added! For details see US20050147651A1 - Coated pet food composition - Google Patents https://www.google.com/patents/US20050147651).
Triclosan (TCS) is a high-volume chemical used as an antimicrobial ingredient in more than 2000 consumer products, such as toothpaste, cosmetics, kitchenware, children’s and dogs’ toys, beds and shampoos. It is also incorporated into plastic pet food bag liners and in plastic meat and poultry wrapping which can finish up in pet foods. Scientists recently reported that brief exposure to TCS, at relatively low doses, causes low-grade colonic inflammation, increases colitis, and exacerbates colitis-associated colon cancer in mice. ( H. Yang el al., “A common antimicrobial additive increases colonic inflammation and colitis-associated colon tumorigenesis in mice,” Science Translational Medicine 30 May 2018: Vol. 10, Issue 443, eaan4116 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aan4116).
These research findings add yet another concern to what may cause dysbiosis and inflammatory bowel disease in dogs and cats as well as humans. It is an accountability call to pet food manufacturers to stipulate to their ingredient-providers that all plastic wrappings on discarded meat and poultry parts are removed before processing, plastic liners of dry pet foods and wrapping of frozen pet foods are TCS-free. Chronic exposure and ingestion of TCS may also contribute to skin and thyroid problems and food allergies.
(For more background information on this antibiotic see Pat Thomas, The Dawn of the domestic superbug - The Ecologist https://theecologist.org/2005/jul/01/dawn-domestic-superbug and
Triclosan - Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triclosan).
Bisphenyl-A in the lining of canned pet foods to stop rusting has been linked with thyroid disease in companion animals, along with the chemical flame retardants in the carpets, sofas and dust of their home environments, toxic flame retardants being called for because these synthetic petrochemical materials are highly flammable.
A review on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
3 Key Reasons to Avoid Mineral Oil - Be Well by Dr. Frank Lipman https://www.bewell.com/blog/3-key-reasons-to-avoid-mineral-oil/
The purity that makes the difference - In-Cosmetics
However, the requirement level of the French Codex. Pharmacopoeia … Unlike vegetal and mineral oils, petroleum jelly retains its moisturising capacity …… tolerance. The French Codex Pharmacopoeia is considerably more demanding than the others in relation to the following purities: - the test for PAH(Polycyclic Aromatic.
National Toxicology Program, “Mineral Oils: Untreated and Mildly Treated,” Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition (2011), Washington DC , Department of Health and Human Services.
Concin N, et al., “Evidence for cosmetics as a source of mineral oil contamination in women,” J Womens Health Nov; 20(11):1713-9.
Fraser L Macrae et al (2018) A fibrin biofilm covers the blood clot and protects from microbial invasion. The Journal of Cinical Investigation https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324932660 . (See also interface using mineral oil or petroleum jelly also prevented film formation (Supplemental …… Y.P., Hook, M., David, T., Coughlin, S.R., et al. 2015.).
Gatti AM, Montanari S (2016) New Quality-Control Investigations on Vaccines: Micro- and Nanocontamination. Int J Vaccines Vaccin 4(1): 00072. DOI: 10.15406/ijvv.2017.04.00072
Lauren M Graham, Thao M Nguyen, and Sang Bok Lee. Nanodetoxification: emerging role of nanomaterials in drug intoxication treatment Nanomedicine (Lond). 2011 Jul; 6(5): 921–928.doi: 10.2217/nnm.11.75
The Molecular Perspective: Polycyclic Aromatic … - The Oncologist
theoncologist.alphamedpress.org/content/9/4/469.full by DS Goodsell - 2004 - Cited by 8 - Related articles
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Mitochondrial dysfunction and neurodegeneration in multiple sclerosis
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Many avenues of research indicate that a neurodegenerative process may also play a significant role in MS from the early stages of disease, and one of the … Another unique class of mitochondria-targeting compounds includes the Szeto-Schiller (SS) peptides, which have an aromatic-cationic motif that allows them to be …
H. I. Zeliger Exposure to lipophilic chemicals as a cause of neurological …
The lipophiles can also be intermediate-lived species, including polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, which can … NIs associated with lipophilic chemical exposure include central nervous system disorders (cognitive, motor and sensory), as well as peripheral ….
Anna Karin Hedström, Ola Hössjer, Michail Katsoulis, Ingrid Kockum, Tomas Olsson, Lars Alfredsson. Organic solvents and MS susceptibility Interaction with MS risk HLA genes. Neurology, 2018 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005906
Polystyrene Plastic: A Source and Sink for Polycyclic Aromatic …
Feb 27, 2018 - Download citation | Polystyrene Plastic:… | Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) on virgin polystyrene (PS) and PS marine debris led us to examine PS as a source and sink for PAHs in the marine environment. At two locations in San Diego Bay, we measured sorption of PAHs to PS pellets, sampl..
Plastic pollution doesn’t just hurt marine species. It’s also harmful to people. As plastic debris floats in the seawater, it absorbs dangerous pollutants like PCBs, DDT and PAH. These chemicals are highly toxic and have a wide range of chronic effects, including endocrine disruption and cancer-causing mutations.
Ocean Plastics Pollution - Center for Biological Diversity
Deborah S. Jacobs et al. Surface degradation and nanoparticle release of a commercial nanosilica/polyurethane coating under UV exposure, Journal of Coatings Technology and Research (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s11998-016-9796-2
Brain damage and behavioural disorders in fish induced by plastic …
by K Mattsson - Sep 13, 2017 - Once in the aquatic environment, plastic material breaks up into smaller pieces through the action of sunlight, waves, living organisms in the water and by the water itself, Eventually plastic material is broken down to nanoparticles–, which may be an even more potent threat since plastic nanoparticles are able to pass through biological barriers, penetrate tissues and ..
Microplastics and nanoplastics in food – an emerging issue …
https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/160623 Jun 23, 2016 - EFSA has taken a first step towards a future assessment of the potential risks to consumers from microplastics and nanoplastics in food, especially seafood. … Dr Peter Hollman was a member of the working group that helped EFSA’s Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) to …
Royer S.-J. et al. “Production of methane and ethylene from plastic in the environment.” PLoS ONE. 2018.
Fox, M.W. Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health. Create Space Books/Amazon.com 2011.
To the widely publicized discovery of a mass of ocean plastic twice the size of the state of Texas we must add data indicating the equivalent of more than four Mount Everests worth of terrestrial trash: SeeRoland Geyer, Jenna R. Jambeck and Kara Lavender Law, Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made Science Advances 19 Jul 2017: Vol. 3, no. 7, e1700782 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782
Abstract: Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny. However, robust global information, particularly about their end-of-life fate, is lacking. By identifying and synthesizing dispersed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, we present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured. We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.
Plastic wrap made from shellfish and plants is completely compostable
By spraying alternating layers of the chitin and cellulose infused solution, researchers found they could make the layers fuse to one another and form one single, resilient film. Source: Satam, et. al. “Spray-Coated Multilayer Cellulose Nanocrystal—Chitin Nanofiber Films for Barrier Applications.” ACS Chemistry & Engineering. 2018.
Microplastics are everywhere, even in pristine national parks (Star Tribune, June 15th 2020) Microplastics in airborne dust ranging in size from 4 to 1888 microns have been found in wilderness areas in U.S. National Parks, raising concerns about impact on ecosystems, insects and other animals and on the lungs of humans. For details see Plastic dust is blowing into U.S. national parks—more than 1000 tons each year By Erik Stokstad Jun. 11, 2020 , https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/plastic-dust-blowing-us-national-parks-more-1000-tons-each-year
Plastic ingestion by marine fish is widespread and increasing. By Matthew S. Savoca Alexandra G. McInturf and Elliott L. Hazen First published: 09 February 2021in Global Change Biology https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15533
Abstract Plastic pollution has pervaded almost every facet of the biosphere, yet we lack an understanding of consumption risk by marine species at the global scale. To address this, we compile data from research documenting plastic debris ingestion by marine fish, totaling 171,774 individuals of 555 species. Overall, 386 marine fish species have ingested plastic debris including 210 species of commercial importance. However, 148 species studied had no records of plastic consumption, suggesting that while this evolutionary trap is widespread, it is not yet universal. Across all studies that accounted for microplastics, the incidence rate of plastic ingested by fish was 26%. Over the last decade this incidence has doubled, increasing by 2.4 ± 0.4% per year. This is driven both by increasing detection of smaller sized particles as a result of improved methodologies, as well as an increase in fish consuming plastic. Further, we investigated the role of geographic, ecological, and behavioral factors in the ingestion of plastic across species. These analyses revealed that the abundance of plastic in surface waters was positively correlated to plastic ingestion. Demersal species are more likely to ingest plastic in shallow waters; in contrast, pelagic species were most likely to consume plastic below the mixed layer. Mobile predatory species had the highest likelihood to ingest plastic; similarly, we found a positive relationship between trophic level and plastic ingestion. We also find evidence that surface ingestion‐deep sea egestion of microplastics by mesopelagic myctophids is likely a key mechanism for the export of microplastics from the surface ocean to the seafloor, a sink for marine debris. These results elucidate the role of ecology and biogeography underlying plastic ingestion by marine fish and point toward species and regions in urgent need of study.