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IEAM Blog. Official blog for the journal Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management: Timely news, discussions, and thoughts

Micro and Nanoplastics in the Environment: Risk for the Environment and Human Health
The use of plastic materials has been increasing since the mid-20th century to reach current production volumes of more than 300 million metric tons per year. The global flow of plastic materials is still linear, which means it is not “circular,” or a closed loop that results in sustainable re-use. From manufacturing to landfilling, more than 30% of plastic materials end up leaking into the environment in an uncontrolled manner. This is particularly evident in the aquatic environment where plastic debris has been detected in increasing amounts since the 1970s. Public concern skyrocketed with the spreading of news about the so-called “plastic islands” or “plastic continents” at the confluences of ocean currents. The denomination “plastic islands” for the accumulations observed in oceanic turns is misleading because the concentration of plastic particles on the surface of these areas is estimated at around 500,000 particles per square kilometer (100 to 10,000 times greater than in other parts of the ocean, but still less than one particle per square meter). In any case, although it is evident that you can’t walk on these “islands,” the total amount of waste released into the environment in the form of plastic debris is enormous and currently represents over five billion (European) floating particles, which is almost 300,000 metric tons or 0.1% of the world annual production of plastic materials. (...)

Two sessions co-chaired in SETAC Europe 28th Annual Meeting

Distribution, transformations and biological effects of incidental nanoparticles and nanoplastics in the environment from a more realistic point of view under the main theme: 3. Environmental chemistry and exposure assessment: analysis, monitoring, fate and modelling. Co-chairs: Gerardo Pulido-Reyes andRoberto Rosal. Nanomaterials (incidental nanoparticles and nanoplastics) have turned into ecological and public health problems of great importance due to their massive uses and broad applications. During the last years, considerable research has been performed related to nanomaterials and their possible biological impact on the biota and human health. However, the knowledge of their distribution, transformations and abundance is far from complete and requires further evaluation. The knowledge of the accumulation, sources, sinks and real environmental impacts of nanomaterials is also currently limited. (...)
Ecotoxicology of micro and nanoplastics: Mechanistic approaches to understand their risk for the environment and human health under the main theme: 1. Ecotoxicology and human toxicology: from molecules to organisms, from omics to in vivo. Co-chairs: Francisca Fernandez-Piñas, Roberto Rosal and Miguel González Pleiter. Microplastics have long been recognized as environmental causing impacts to marine and terrestrial life. However, the importance of the smaller fractions, nanoplastics, has only been documented in recent times. Nanoplastics, like other nanomaterials, have unique properties due to their size, shape and their capacity to interact with other substances due to their large surface area. Nanoplastics can produce physical damage but they may also be transported across cell membranes and persist in the environment due to their relative inertness. (...)

Article selected for Open Access in Environmental Science: Nano

Reverse Trojan-horse effect decreased wastewater toxicity in the presence of inorganic nanoparticles
We studied the toxicological interaction of 46 micropollutants from a biologically treated wastewater effluent in mixtures with silica, amine-modified silica, titanium dioxide and magnetite nanoparticles. The pollutants tracked in this work were polar pharmaceuticals belonging to different therapeutic groups, some of their metabolites and artificial sweeteners, the concentrations of which were mostly in the tens to hundreds of ng L−1 range. The results showed particularly high adsorption for furosemide, gemfibrozil and the aminopyrine metabolite 4FAA. There was preferential adsorption of the less polar compounds on the less polar nanoparticles. The total amounts of compounds adsorbed and quantified were 13.4, 4.8, 10.8 and 7.1 μg/g for SiO2, SiO2–NH2, TiO2 and Fe3O4, respectively. The toxicity of wastewater–nanoparticle mixtures was assessed using the bioluminescent cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. PCC 7120 CPB4337. The interactions were quantified by means of the combination index (CI)-isobologram method (...)

Weblog El Agua de Madri+d

Micro y nanoplásticos en el medio ambiente acuático.
Publicado en Madri+d el 7 febrero de 2018

El uso de materiales plásticos se ha ido incrementando gradualmente desde la mitad del siglo XX alcanzándose volúmenes de producción superiores a los 300 millones de toneladas anuales, con una participación creciente de China y los países de la Asociación de Naciones del Sudeste Asiático (ASEAN). El flujo global de materiales plásticos es aún muy lineal, desde la fabricación hasta el vertedero con un porcentaje de pérdidas superiores al 30% de materiales que terminan diseminados de forma incontrolada, particularmente en el medio acuático donde vienen detectándose en cantidades crecientes desde principios de los años setenta. La evidencia ha demostrado que una vez en el medio natural, los plásticos mayores se fragmentan para dar lugar a microplásticos y, posiblemente, a un enorme número de nanopartículas plásticas. Los avances que han tenido lugar en nanotoxicología desde principios de siglo sugieren que se pueden estar diseminando en el medio ambiente nanopartículas capaces de penetrar en los tejidos de los seres vivos y acumularse con efectos desconocidos. (...)


Roberto Rosal

Professor of Chemical Engineering

University of Alcalá

E-28871 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid