In January 2019, authors Giedrė Ašmonaitė and Bethanie Carney Almroth from the University of Gothenburg published a report titled “Effects of Microplastics on Organisms and Impacts on the Environment: Balancing the Known and Unknown.” Funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the study was tasked with “identifying important sources of microplastics (MPs) in the environment and suggesting actions to mitigate their emissions into the environment.” It reviews scientific articles on the topic and “serves as an update to a report summarizing knowledge of the exposure and responses of wildlife to MPs that was produced by researchers at Örebro University in 2016.”
Compared with the earlier report in 2016, the updated study finds that “the research field now has a clearer understanding of the complexity of the problem, mechanisms underlying effects of MPs, and consensus that the risks associated with microplastics are lower than we previously feared . . . .” It focuses largely on reviewing the prevalence and potential impacts of MPs in aquatic environments, however terrestrial ecosystems are also considered. The report reviews and provides updated information concerning topics related to MPs such as occurrence in different environments, presence in the food chain, toxicity, particle, and chemical effects, risk assessment, and risk perception.
Main conclusions of the report include “that current levels of MPs may not be highly problematic in the environment at present,” however the authors describe “knowledge concerning human exposure levels to microplastics and their consequences as lacking” and “knowledge concerning occurrence of nanoplastic in numerous matrices” as also insufficient. They note that “current consensus in the research field states that major threats and risks do not exist today but will likely occur in the future. MP pollution should be avoided, and mitigation efforts need to be addressed at the source.”
University of Gothenburg (2019). “Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences: Ecotoxicology.”
Caterina Tani (February 7, 2019). “Echa definition of microplastics ‘too broad’ – Cefic.” Chemical Watch
Giedrė Ašmonaitė and Bethanie Carney Almroth (February 2019). “Effects of Microplastics on Organisms and Impacts on the Environment: Balancing the Known and Unknown.” University of Gothenburg (pdf)