(pieces less than 1 µm in diameter) can be of different sizes and shapes and can be made of a variety of materials, writes Senior Correspondent Britt E. Erickson. Because not all microplastics are created equal, they can have different impacts on human health and the environment, and therefore studying them is complex.
To date, most researchers have used polystyrene beads in their experiments because they are easily accessible, but these particles are not representative of the microplastics found in the environment. Most microplastics found in air and water are debris, not spheres.
Polystyrene are not the only polymers found in the environment; polyethylene, polypropylene and polyamides are also popular. And once in the environment, UV rays and pollutants can change the properties of particles.
Because there is limited exposure data on microplastics, making regulatory decisions is challenging.
The toxicology community has had similar problems with nanoparticles over the past decade, and so scientists hope that the lessons from nanotoxicology can be applied to microplastics.
Researchers are beginning to standardize the various micro- and nano-plastics used in studies, so that the results can be better reproduced and reproduced in real-world situations.
Scientists are using laboratory systems that simulate bodily functions to figure out how ingested and inhaled particles might affect human lung and intestinal cells. Although scientists are unsure whether the influx of funding for toxicology research will lead to meaningful regulatory changes, there is hope that more information about the risks to human health will emerge. with the health of these materials.