Microplastics (MPs, <5 mm in size) are a grave environmental concern. They are a ubiquitous persistent pollutant group that has reached into all parts of the environment — from the highest mountain tops to the depths of the ocean. During their production, plastics have added to them numerous chemicals in the form of plasticizers, colorants, fillers and stabilizers, some of which have known toxicity to biota. When released into the environments, MPs are also likely to encounter chemical contaminants, including hydrophobic organic contaminants, trace metals and pharmaceuticals, which can sorb to plastic surfaces. Additionally, MPs have been shown to be ingested by a wide range of organisms and it is this combination of ingestion and chemical association that gives weight to the notion that MPs may impact the bioavailability and toxicity of both endogenous and exogenous co-contaminants. In this mini-review, we set the recent literature within what has been previously published about MPs as chemical carriers to biota, with particular focus on aquatic invertebrates and fish. We then present a critical viewpoint on the validity of laboratory-to-field extrapolations in this area. Lastly, we highlight the expanding ‘microplastic universe’ with the addition of anthropogenic particles that have gained recent attention, namely, tire wear particles, nanoplastics and, bio-based or biodegradable MPs, and highlight the need for future research in their potential roles as vehicles of co-contaminant transfer.



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Emerging topics in life sciences



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School of Health Professions