Weight of Evidence for the Microplastic Vector Effect in the Context of Chemical Risk Assessment

A.A. Koelmans*, N.J. Diepens, N.H. Mohamed Nor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The concern that in nature, ingestion of microplastic (MP) increases exposure of organisms to plastic-associated chemicals (the ‘MP vector effect’) plays an important role in the current picture of the risks of microplastic for the environment and human health. An increasing number of studies on this topic have been conducted using a wide variety of approaches and techniques. At present, the MP vector effect is usually framed as ‘complex’, ‘under debate’ or ‘controversial’. Studies that critically discuss the approaches and techniques used to study the MP vector effect, and that provide suggestions for the harmonization needed to advance this debate, are scarce. Furthermore, only a few studies have strived at interpreting study outcomes in the light of environmentally relevant conditions. This constitutes a major research gap, because these are the conditions that are most relevant when informing risk assessment and management decisions. Based on a review of 61 publications, we propose evaluation criteria and guidance for MP vector studies and discuss current study designs using these criteria. The criteria are designed such that studies, which fulfil them, will be relevant to inform risk assessment. By critically reviewing the existing literature in the light of these criteria, a weight of evidence assessment is provided. We demonstrate that several studies did not meet the standards for their conclusions on the MP vector effect to stand, whereas others provided overwhelming evidence that the vector effect is unlikely to affect chemical risks under present natural conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMicroplastic in the Environment: Pattern and Process
EditorsM.S. Bank
Place of PublicationCham
ISBN (Electronic)9783030786274
ISBN (Print)9783030786267, 9783030786298
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameEnvironmental Contamination Remediation and Management
ISSN (Print)2522-5847
ISSN (Electronic)2522-5855


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