Project Details The Environment, Health and Food Safety Impact of Microplastics

Project No.:
Start Date:
01 December 2019
End Date:


To provide scientists, policy makers, regulators, industry and general public a full picture and better understanding on the emerging issue of microplastics by analyzing the existing data, reviewing the scientific methods, tracing the source, revealing the fate, and evaluating the impact on environment and food safety, aiming to recommend future efforts to solve this globally challenging problem. The project integrates the chemistry expertise from members in all disciplines represented in IUPAC Division and the Committee on Chemistry and Industry. The outcome will strengthen the role of IUPAC in contributing to solve environmental problems and enhancing the quality of food and life on a global scale.


This project brings scientists and experts across IUPAC divisions together to tackle the microplastics issue from published results and data in literature. Plastic is the most important material (iron and steel too) in terms of their environmental impacts in a UNEP (2010) report. Un-intentionally breakdown debris (from 1 μm to 5 mm) of plastic is termed microplastics. The issue of microplastics in the environment has recently becoming the media focus as they are regularly intaked by people and worldwide. However, their impacts on environment, human health or food safety are not fully understood yet.

Due to the nature of the problem, the high risk level and the wide distribution (it adversely affects billions of population and the whole biosphere) of microplastics, it is necessary for polymer experts, analytical chemists, environmental scientists, and diversified stakeholders experts from all areas to work together on this important, interdisciplinary mission.

The consortium will work on the i) collect the literature and data from from literature, ii) model the distribution of microplastics in the environment, iii) measure the consequences to biosphere and the environmental impact, iv) degradability, bioavailability and toxicity, and v) risk assessment, making conclusions and recommendations.

Recommendations on plastic product innovation, industrial leadership with extender producer responsibility, advanced plastic waste remediation and recycling techniques, diversified plastic waste management system, together with new standard development and strong commitments from local and international organizations and governments.


Project announcement published in Chem Int April 2020, p. 28

August 2020 update – the work around this project is being organized in sub-groups following 3 themes, each task group has 1-2 task leaders:

i. Analytical methods

  • 1. Definitions (micro vs macro)
  • 2. Analytical methods and particularly environmental analysis—Prof Yong-Chien Ling

ii. Environmental behaviour

  • 3. Nature of microplastics
  • 4. Toxicity in the environmental compartments (Ocean, Soil, Water, Food, etc.) —Prof Hemda Garelick and Prof Fani Sakellariadou

iii. Remediation and solutions

  • 5. Degradation
  • 6. Remediation technologies—Prof Diane Purchase
  • 7. New materials—Prof Nadia Kandile


Page last updated 24 Aug 2020