Microplastics; occurrence, levels and implications for environment and human health related to food. Scientific opinion of the Scientific Steering Committee of the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment
Skåre, Janneche Utne; Alexander, Jan; Haave, Marte; Jakubowicz, Ignacy; Knutsen, Helle Katrine; Lusher, Amy; Ogonowski, Martin; Rakkestad, Kirsten Eline; Skaar, Ida; Sverdrup, Line Emilie; Wagner, Martin; Agdestein, Angelika; Bodin, Johanna Eva; Elvevoll, Edel O.; Hemre, Gro Ingunn; Hessen, Dag Olav; Hofshagen, Merete; Husøy, Trine; Krogdahl, Åshild; Nilsen, Asbjørn Magne; Rafoss, Trond; Skjerdal, Olaug Taran; Steffensen, Inger-Lise; Strand, Tor A; Vandvik, Vigdis; Wasteson, Yngvild
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Summary The steering committee of VKM has self-initiated a mandate for an opinion on microplastics based on recently published international and/or national reports complemented with literature from December 2016 to February 2019. The mandate requested a summary of the state of knowledge on the presence of microplastics in the environment and the implications for the ecosystem, terrestrial and aquatic organisms, food production and human health. An overview of main national and international ongoing initiatives was also requested, and highlighting of data gaps where specific Norwegian data was needed. VKM appointed a working group consisting of two VKM members and eight external experts (two are former VKM-members), in addition to a project leader from the VKM secretariat to write the assessment. Introduction Microplastics are global contaminants and have been ubiquitously detected in water, atmosphere, sediments, soils, sewage sludge, biota, and foodstuff, primarily as a result of degradation and fragmentation of larger plastic debris (secondary microplastics). Fragmentation occurs as plastic debris turns brittle due to weathering, especially as a result of solar photodegradation. Due to a large variation in material composition and environmental conditions, the fragmentation kinetics and processes are poorly understood, so there are no reliable estimates of the time to embrittlement of different types of plastics. Nano- and microplastics originally manufactured to be that size (primary microplastics) contribute to a lesser extent. Plastics contain a mixture of chemicals added during manufacture and may also ab/adsorb and act as vectors for persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic contaminants (PBTs) and microorganisms from the environment. Microplastics have been subject to several recent reviews and risk assessments from international authorities which address both potential environmental and human health effects. (EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) on the presence of nano- and microplastics in food, with particular focus on seafood in 2016 (Alexander et al., 2016), a technical paper on the status of knowledge on microplastics in fisheries and aquaculture from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (Lusher et al., 2017b), and a scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society (SAPEA, 2019)).