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プラスチックは体に悪い物質が付きやすいため、魚などがプラスチックを食べると、その魚を食べる動物や人にも悪い影響が出る心配があります。
As for plastic, because bad materials easily stick in the body, there is a worry that if fish eat plastic it will also have a bad effect on the people and animals who eat those fish.

I can't understand the purpose of the に in bold at the start of this sentence.

Can it be omitted without changing the meaning?

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You seem to have failed to parse this sentence correctly. Treat 体に悪い物質 as one set here.

プラスチックには[体に悪い物質]付きやすい…
[Substances which are bad for your body] easily stick to plastic, ...

AがBに付く is a common way to say "A sticks to B," and it's not the body but plastic that bad substances stick to. So に after プラスチック is just "to" as in "stick to ~", and に after 体 is "for" as in "bad for ~".

The topicalizer は always replaces が/を, but it doesn't usually replace に/へ. See this.

You can omit に in this case without changing the meaning. But I wouldn't do so because this section is relatively complicated and omitting に may make it a bit harder to understand. See: When do you use は/に for どようびは/に?

  • I don't understand why this got down voted. – user3856370 Mar 11 '17 at 10:37

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