In an article published on January 10, 2019 by the EU project Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA), a new report by an expert panel within the project reviews microplastics and nanoplastics. It concludes that “the best available evidence suggests that microplastics and nanoplastics do not pose a widespread risk to humans or the environment, except in small pockets. But that evidence is limited, and the situation could change if pollution continues at the current rate.”

The report highlights “that microplastics … are already present across air, soil and sediment, freshwaters, seas and oceans, plants and animals, and in several components of the human diet” and that “in controlled experiments, high concentrations of these particles have been shown to cause physical harm to the environment and living creatures, including inducing inflammation and stress.” The report finds that “concentration levels measured in the real world are well below this threshold  – though there are also limitations in the measurement methods currently available.” For “other parts of the environment, there is no reliable evidence about the levels or effects of these particles,” which is especially the case for nanoplastics “which are very difficult to measure and evaluate.”

The report is set to inform the scientific opinion on the issue from the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism Group of Chief Scientific Advisors. This is due to be released in 2019.

Funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme, SAPEA “brings together outstanding knowledge and expertise from over 100 academies, young academies, and learned societies in over 40 countries across Europe.”

Read more

SAPEA (January 10, 2019). “Evidence on microplastics does not yet point to widespread risk, say Europe’s top scientists.”

Chemical Watch (January 22, 2019). “‘Widespread’ risk if microplastics are not restricted – EU science group.


SAPEA (2018). “A Scientific Perspective on Microplastics in Nature and Society.” (pdf)