GYA member Bartłomiej Kołodziejczyk (Australia) has contributed to an evidence review report on “A scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society” by SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies).

The report presents a review of evidence on microplastics and nanoplastics and finds that these do not pose a widespread risk to humans or the environment, except in small pockets. At the same time, the authors caution that the evidence continuous to be limited and the situation could change if pollution continued at the current rate.

The report comprehensively examines the best available evidence from the natural sciences and computer modelling, as well as social, political and behavioural sciences. Its key conclusions are:

  • Microplastics — tiny particles under 5mm in length — are already present across air, soil and sediment, freshwaters, seas and oceans, plants and animals, and in several components of the human diet.
  • These particles come from a variety of sources, including plastic products, textiles, fisheries, agriculture, industry and general waste.
  • In controlled experiments, high concentrations of these particles have been shown to cause physical harm to the environment and living creatures, including inducing inflammation and stress.
  • However, the concentration levels measured in many real-world locations are well below this threshold — though there are also limitations in the measurement methods currently available.
  • Meanwhile, in other parts of the environment, there is no reliable evidence about the levels or effects of these particles. This is true especially of nanoplastics, which are very difficult to measure and evaluate.

The report has been compiled by a group of experts nominated by senior and young science academies across Europe. It will inform the forthcoming Scientific Opinion from the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors, due in April 2019.

See here for more information and to download the report.