03 Mar 2023 EU NEWS

European Union publishes Future Brief on the state of knowledge and environmental and human health impacts of nanoplastics

The Future Brief presents the current science on nanoplastics: their detection, assessment and monitoring; their impacts in the environment, ecotoxicity, and environmental fate; and their potential impacts on human health.

In February 2023, Science for Environment Policy (SfEP) - a free news and information service published by the European Commission’s Directorate-General Environment - released a Future Brief to evaluate the scientific understanding of nanoplastics. Future Briefs give expert predictions about environmental policy issues in the near future.

As plastic products continue to accumulate in our environment, researchers are turning their attention to nanoplastics – "a particle measuring no more than 1μm (0.001mm)", as mentioned as a standard definition in the report.  Our current understanding of nanoplastics in the environment remains limited. This lack of knowledge is of great concern considering the ability of nanoplastics to cross biological barriers more effectively than their larger counterparts (microplastics) and the potential of their effects to be long-term and damaging.

While concerns over nanoplastics are growing, there are still more questions than answers. Researchers are attempting to better detect and assess nanoplastics, as well as to develop a clear definition for these tiny particles. Identifying and quantifying them as well as understanding their impact pose an array of difficulties due to their small size, and more research is needed to characterise and measure their exact hazardous properties.

Find out more about what we know so far on nanoplastics and their potential impact on the environment and our health by delving into the Future Hrief, accessible here.


Science for Environment Policy (2023) Nanoplastics: state of knowledge and environmental and human health impacts. Future Brief 27. Brief produced for the European Commission DG Environment by the Science Communication Unit, UWE Bristol. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/scienceenvironment-policy.