Micro(nano)plastics sources, fate, and effects: what we know after ten years of research

Steve Allen, Deonie Allen, Samaneh Karbalaei, Vittorio Maselli, Tony R. Walker

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The last decade has been transformative for micro(nano)plastic (MnP) research with recent discoveries revealing the extent and magnitude of MnP pollution, even in the world's most remote places. Historically, while researchers recognized that most plastic pollution was derived from land-based sources, it was generally believed that microplastic particles (i.e., plastic fragments <5 mm) was only a marine pollution issue with effects largely impacting marine biota. However, over the last decade MnP research has progressed rapidly with recent discoveries of MnPs in freshwater, snow, ice, soil, terrestrial biota, air and even found in ocean spray. MnPs have now been found in every environmental compartment on earth, within tissues and gastrointestinal tracts of thousands of species, including humans, resulting in harmful effects. The last 10 years has also seen the development of new techniques for MnP analysis, and re-purposing of old technologies allowing us to determine the extent and magnitude of plastic pollution down to the nano size range (<1 µm). This short review summarizes what key milestones and major advances have been made in microplastic and nanoplastic research in the environment, including their sources, fate, and effects over the last decade.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100057
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials Advances
Early online date28 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2022


  • plastic pollution
  • microplastics
  • nanoplastics
  • harmful effects
  • environmental toxicity


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