As the world grapples with the escalating issue of waste generation, particularly the contamination stemming from both domestic and industrial sources, Ecuador finds itself at the crossroads of a burgeoning environmental crisis. The sharp rise in plastic production has led to its pervasive accumulation across the globe, significantly contributing to the bulk of municipal solid waste. The inherent qualities of plastics, such as their durability, low manufacturing costs, and versatility across temperatures, have ingrained them into the fabric of daily life. Yet, the very attributes that make plastics appealing also underscore a growing environmental dilemma. Their stubborn persistence in the environment, slowly fragmenting into ever smaller pieces, disperses through air, soil, and water, creating a network of pollution that spans across ecosystems. The situation took a turn for the worse with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a marked increase in the use of single-use plastics, further straining already mismanaged waste systems in many regions, including Latin America and, by extension, Ecuador.

Gabriela Yánez-Jácome, David Romero-Estévez, and Pamela Vélez-Terreros, researchers at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, delve into this pressing issue in a comprehensive review published in Heliyon. Findings reveal the widespread presence of MPs across Ecuador’s ecosystems, from coastal waters to the air we breathe, implicating everything from food to drinking water. Identifying the already significant challenge posed by inadequate waste management systems.

Gabriela Yánez-Jácome highlights, “The pervasive distribution of microplastics has been confirmed in various components of the Ecuadorian environment.” This research points out that the accumulation of MPs poses significant risks to marine life and terrestrial ecosystems, indicating an urgent need for action. David Romero-Estévez emphasizes, “Effective management strategies are imperative to mitigate the adverse effects of MPs on the environment and human health.” Improvements in waste management and wastewater treatment are critical steps towards addressing this issue.

Furthermore, Pamela Vélez-Terreros argues for the importance of public education on the matter: “Raising public awareness about the sources and dangers of MPs can significantly contribute to reducing their environmental impact.” The study suggests that informed communities are better equipped to participate in sustainability efforts and adopt eco-friendly practices.

The extensive distribution of MPs in aquatic and terrestrial environments, including air, water, sediment, and marine organisms, indicates the different pathways for MP exposure such as food products and drinking water. This exposure can result in various human health effects from ingestion or inhalation. The complexity of MPs’ chemical characteristics and their interaction with toxic contaminants underscores the potential effects on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, biota, and human health, necessitating further research worldwide. In Ecuador, specifically, the establishment of wastewater treatment plants in major cities, continuous monitoring of MP coastal contamination, and the development of environmental and food safety regulations are crucial. National authorities must also develop programs to raise public awareness of the problems related to plastic use and the MP-related effects on the environment and human health.  National authorities must encourage research on MPs to develop strategies and control these emerging pollutants.


Vélez-Terreros, P.Y., Romero-Estévez, D., & Yanez-Jácome, G.S. (2024). ‘Microplastics in Ecuador: A review of environmental and health-risk assessment challenges’. Heliyon, 10, e23232. DOI:


Gabriela S. Yánez-Jácome, born in Latacunga – Ecuador (1987). Master´s degree in Advanced Fine Chemistry obtained in the University of Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain (2013). Researcher at the Centro de Estudios Aplicados en Química from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (CESAQ-PUCE), Ecuador.

Her research is aligned to the determination of environmental and food contaminants, mainly toxic trace metals, through different analytical and instrumental methodologies. Evaluation of toxic metal exposure and risk assessment in human health.

ORCID: 0000-0002-0361-2729

David Romero-Estévez, born in Quito, Ecuador (1987), Chemical Sciences degree with a mention in Analytical Chemistry (2010) and a Master’s degree in Safety and Prevention of Occupational Hazards in Universidad Técnica Equinoccial, Quito, Ecuador (2015). Researcher at the Centro de Estudios Aplicados en Química from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador. His main line of research is toxic metals in food, and environmental matrixes, and the extraction and determination of biomolecules in vegetable matrixes. He also is part of the BIOINCA international mixed laboratory participation in projects with the French Research Institute for Development (IRD). In 2022 he received the Eugenio Espejo decoration from the Metropolitan Council of Quito, awarded to outstanding personalities in the field of Exact and Natural Sciences.

ORCID: 0000-0003-1381-9464

Pamela Y. Vélez-Terreros was born in Quito – Ecuador (1989). She obtained her Chemical Science Degree with a mention in Analytical Chemistry from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (2014) and her Master’s Degree in Food Development and Innovation from the University of Barcelona, Spain (2019). As a laboratory analyst, she collaborated with the Environmental and Chemical Services Laboratory of Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador for 3 years. Currently, due to her expertise, she is part of the investigation team at Centro de Estudios Aplicados en Química (CESAQ – PUCE) in Ecuador. Her research and analysis are mainly focused on toxic trace metals in foods and environmental matrices.

ORCID: 0000-0002-2366-7313