Quantifying ecological risks of aquatic micro- and nanoplastic

Ellen Besseling, Paula Redondo-Hasselerharm, Edwin M. Foekema, Albert A. Koelmans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

196 Citations (Scopus)


Diverse effects of nano- and microplastic (NMP) have been demonstrated in the laboratory. We provide a broad review of current knowledge on occurrence, measurement, modeling approaches, fate, exposure, effects, and effect thresholds as regard to microplastics in the aquatic environment. Using this
information, we perform a ‘proof of concept’ risk assessment for NMP, accounting for the diversity of the material. New data is included showing how bioturbation affects exposure, and exposure is evaluated based on literature data and model analyses. We review exposure and effect data and provide a
worst case risk characterization, by comparing HC5 effect thresholds from ‘all inclusive’ Species Sensitivity Distributions (SSDs) with the highest environmental concentrations reported. HC5 values show wide confidence intervals yet suggest that sensitive aquatic organisms in near-shore surface waters might be at risk.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-80
JournalCritical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number1
Early online date7 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Microplastic
  • Nanoplastics
  • exposure
  • risk assesment
  • Species sensitivity distributions


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