Nanoplastics — an underestimated problem?

via Science Daily

Wherever scientists look, they can spot them: whether in remote mountain lakes, in Arctic sea ice, in the deep-ocean floor or in air samples, even in edible fish — thousands upon thousands of microscopic plastic particles in the micro to millimeter range. This microplastic is now even considered one of the defining features of the Anthropocene, the age of the Earth shaped by modern humans.

Microplastics are formed by weathering and physicochemical or biological degradation processes from macroscopic plastic products, such as the tons of plastic waste in the oceans. It is unlikely that these degradation processes will stop at the micrometer scale. And so there is growing concern about the potential harmful effects nanoplastics could have on various ecosystems. “Numerous media reports suggest, through their sometimes highly emotional coverage, that we are facing a huge problem here,” says Empa researcher Bernd Nowack, who has long studied the material flows of synthetic micro- and nanoparticles, for example from textiles or tire abrasion, into the environment. But Nowack says at present this statement can hardly be substantiated by scientific findings: “We don’t even know how much nanoplastics there is in the different ecosystems.”

Read the full story here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210504112641.htm

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