A scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society

Working group members

Bart Koelmans
Chair
Professor
University of Wageningen
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Sabine Pahl
Vice-Chair
Associate Professor
University of Plymouth
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Thomas Backhaus
Professor
University of Gothenburg
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Filipa Bessa
Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Coimbra
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Geert van Calster
Nadja Contzen
Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Groningen
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Richard Cronin
Water and Marine Advisory Unit, Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Ireland
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Tamara Galloway
Professor
University of Exeter
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Andy Hart
Visiting Professor
Newcastle University
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Lesley Henderson
Senior Lecturer
Brunel University
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Gabriela Kalčíková
Assistant Professor
University of Ljubljana
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Frank Kelly
Professor
King’s College London
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Bartłomiej Kołodziejczyk
Research Fellow
Stockholm University
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Elda Marku
Professor
University of Tirana
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Wouter Poortinga
Professor
Cardiff University
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Matthias Rillig
Professor
Freie University Berlin
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Erik Van Sebille
Associate Professor
Utrecht University
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Linda Steg
Professor
University of Groningen
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Josef Steidl
Professor Emeritus
Czech Technical University Prague
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Julia Steinhorst
Research Associate
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies
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Kristian Syberg
Associate Professor
Roskilde University
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Richard Thompson
Professor
University of Plymouth
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Martin Wagner
Associate Professor
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
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Annemarie van Wezel
Professor
KWR Watercycle Research Institute; Utrecht University
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Stephanie Wright
Research Associate
King’s College London
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Kayleigh Wyles
Lecturer
University of Surrey
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The best available evidence suggests that microplastics and nanoplastics do not pose a widespread risk to humans or the environment, except in small pockets. But that evidence is limited, and the situation could change if pollution continues at the current rate.

This is the verdict of SAPEA’s Evidence Review Report on micro- and nanoplastic pollution, published in January 2019. The report is written by a group of world-leading experts nominated by academies across Europe, and informs the forthcoming Scientific Opinion from the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors.

What the report says

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.

Debate and impact

As SAPEA’s work on microplastics is published and disseminated throughout 2019 and beyond, its impact on the microplastics debate will be recorded here.

EventsMedia coverageDebate on Twitter

SAPEA’s work on microplastics will be presented and discussed at a range of events for researchers, policy-makers and the general public in 2019. The list below will be updated throughout the year.

G7 meeting
Science advisors from the G7 countries, convened by the European Commission and the Chief Science Advisor of Canada, met in Washington DC to discuss the SAPEA report and future cooperation in advising world governments on microplastics.

Read more
European Commission expert workshop
The SAM Unit of the European Commission assembled a range of experts to discuss the SAPEA report and provide input into the forthcoming Scientific Opinion of the GCSA.
ALLEA General Assembly
The ALLEA General Assembly convenes Academies of Sciences and Humanities from 40 countries across the Council of Europe region.

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SETAC Europe
The society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) is a not-for profit, global professional society established in 1979 to provide a forum for individuals and institutions engaged in education, research and development, ecological risk assessment and life-cycle assessment, chemical manufacture and distribution, management and regulation of natural resources, and the study, analysis, and solution of environmental problems.

Read more

Some progress regarding the situation of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as lead research organisation but the future remains uncertain and MTA needs all the support it can get - Read FEAM's letter of support: @SAPEAnews @ALLEA_academies https://t.co/junvt823mG

Good to hear about the ban of intentionally added #microplastics by REACH - this referenced our @SAPEAnews report @SabinePahl @martiwag @wouterpoortinga

Join us at the #CardiffScienceFestival to learn about other foods from the oceans and how YOU can make a difference by choosing to eat different types of seafood.

Find out more:

@SAPEAnews @CdfScienceFest #foodfromtheoceans #science https://t.co/j3PgN5hWpi

Discovering DNA & Food From The Oceans – Capitol Science!

As part of Cardiff Science Festival 2019, we are taking over one of the shop spaces in the Capitol Shopping Centre. The space will feature loads of am...

www.cardiffsciencefestival.co.uk

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