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Filters: Author is Susanne M. Brander  [Clear All Filters]
Journal Article (Peer-Reviewed)
Hampton, L. M. Thornto; Bouwmeester, H.; Brander, S. M.; Coffin, S.; Cole, M.; Hermabessiere, L.; Mehinto, A. C.; Miller, E.; Rochman, C. M.; Weisberg, S. B. 2022. Research recommendations to better understand the potential health impacts of microplastics to humans and aquatic ecosystems. Microplastics and Nanoplastics 2 (18).

To assess the potential risk of microplastic exposure to humans and aquatic ecosystems, reliable toxicity data is needed. This includes a more complete foundational understanding of microplastic toxicity and better characterization of the hazards they may present. To expand this understanding, an international group of experts was convened in 2020–2021 to identify critical thresholds at which microplastics found in drinking and ambient waters present a health risk to humans and aquatic organisms. However, their findings were limited by notable data gaps in the literature. Here, we identify those shortcomings and describe four categories of research recommendations needed to address them: 1) adequate particle characterization and selection for toxicity testing; 2) appropriate experimental study designs that allow for the derivation of dose-response curves; 3) establishment of adverse outcome pathways for microplastics; and 4) a clearer understanding of microplastic exposure, particularly for human health. By addressing these four data gaps, researchers will gain a better understanding of the key drivers of microplastic toxicity and the concentrations at which adverse effects may occur, allowing a better understanding of the potential risk that microplastics exposure might pose to human and aquatic ecosystems.

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Mehinto, A. C.; Wagner, M.; Hampton, L. M. Thornto; Burton, Jr, A. G.; Miller, E.; Gouin, T.; Weisberg, S. B.; Rochman, C. M. 2022. Risk-based management framework for microplastics in aquatic ecosystems. Microplastics and Nanoplastics 2 (17).

Microplastic particles (MPs) are ubiquitous across a wide range of aquatic habitats but determining an appropriate level of risk management is hindered by a poor understanding of environmental risk. Here, we introduce a risk management framework for aquatic ecosystems that identifies four critical management thresholds, ranging from low regulatory concern to the highest level of concern where pollution control measures could be introduced to mitigate environmental emissions. The four thresholds were derived using a species sensitivity distribution (SSD) approach and the best available data from the peer-reviewed literature. This included a total of 290 data points extracted from 21 peer-reviewed microplastic toxicity studies meeting a minimal set of pre-defined quality criteria. The meta-analysis resulted in the development of critical thresholds for two effects mechanisms: food dilution with thresholds ranging from ~ 0.5 to 35 particles/L, and tissue translocation with thresholds ranging from ~ 60 to 4100 particles/L. This project was completed within an expert working group, which assigned high confidence to the management framework and associated analytical approach for developing thresholds, and very low to high confidence in the numerical thresholds. Consequently, several research recommendations are presented, which would strengthen confidence in quantifying threshold values for use in risk assessment and management. These recommendations include a need for high quality toxicity tests, and for an improved understanding of the mechanisms of action to better establish links to ecologically relevant adverse effects.

 (1.3 MB)
Brander, S. M.; Renick, V. C.; Foley, M. M.; Steele, C.; Woo, M.; Lusher, A.; Carr, S.; Helm, P.; Box, C.; Cherniak, S.; et al. 2020. Sampling and Quality Assurance and Quality Control: A Guide for Scientists Investigating the Occurrence of Microplastics Across Matrices. Applied Spectroscopy 74 (9) . SFEI Contribution No. 1012.

Plastic pollution is a defining environmental contaminant and is considered to be one of the greatest environmental threats of the Anthropocene, with its presence documented across aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. The majority of this plastic debris falls into the micro (1 lm–5 mm) or nano (1–1000 nm) size range and comes from primary and secondary sources. Its small size makes it cumbersome to isolate and analyze reproducibly, and its ubiquitous distribution creates numerous challenges when controlling for background contamination across matrices (e.g., sediment, tissue, water, air). Although research on microplastics represents a relatively nascent subfield, burgeoning interest in questions surrounding the fate and effects of these debris items creates a pressing need for harmonized sampling protocols and quality control approaches. For results across laboratories to be reproducible and comparable, it is imperative that guidelines based on vetted protocols be readily available to research groups, many of which are either new to plastics research or, as with any new subfield, have arrived at current approaches through a process of trial-and-error rather than in consultation with the greater scientific community. The goals of this manuscript are to (i) outline the steps necessary to conduct general as
well as matrix-specific quality assurance and quality control based on sample type and associated constraints, (ii) briefly review current findings across matrices, and (iii) provide guidance for the design of sampling regimes. Specific attention is paid to the source of microplastic pollution as well as the pathway by which contamination occurs, with details provided regarding each step in the process from generating appropriate questions to sampling design and collection.