Understanding and addressing the environmental risk of microplastics
1. College of Pharmacy, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85724, USA;
2. Department of Applied Chemistry, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China
Over the past decades, the plastic production has been dramatically increased. Indeed, a category of small plastic particles mainly with the shapes of fragments, fibers, or spheres, called microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm) and nanoplastics (particles smaller than 1 μm) have attracted particular attention. Because of its wide distribution in the environment and potential adverse effects to animal and human, microplastic pollution has been reported as a serious environment problem receiving increased attention in recent years. As one of the commonly detected emerging contaminants in the environment, recent evidence indicates that the concentration of microplastics show an increasing trend, for the reason that up to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic litter is released into aquatic environment from land-based sources each year. Furthermore, microplastic exposure levels of model organisms in laboratory studies are usually several orders of magnitude higher than those found in environment, and the microplastics exposure conditions are also different with those observed in the environment. Additionally, the detection of microplastics in feces indicates that they can be excreted out of the bodies of animal and human. Hence, great uncertainties might exist in microplastics exposure and health risk assessment based on current studies, which might be exaggerated. Policies reduce microplastic emission sources and hence minimize their environmental risks are determined. To promote the above policies, we must first overcome the technical obstacles of detecting microplastics in various samples.