06 Oct 2023 EVENT

Why metrics matter! Imptox at IMEKOFOODS Conference in Paris

Imptox scientists from Sciensano emphasize the significance of metrics in determining human exposure to microplastics through shellfish consumption. They will present their research at the 7th conference of the technical committee of the International Measurement Confederation (IMEKO) dedicated to food consumption (TC23) and scheduled in Paris from October 25 – 27, 2023.


Among the speakers will be Maxime Vankoningsloo, Imptox scientist from Sciensano, discussing "Dietary Exposure to Microplastics via Shellfish and the Importance of Edible Shellfish Tissue Measurements." Shellfish stands out among the primary sources of micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) in the food chain. Consuming shellfish poses exposure risks to MNPs and their potentially harmful cargo, including pollutants, pathogens, and allergens, possibly impacting sensitization and allergic responses.

Imptox scientists discovered that quantifying microplastics in shellfish differs significantly when expressing detected quantities considering the entire shellfish content or solely the edible wet tissue (EWT), constituting 50 – 70% of the shell content. In their study, they investigated shellfish (83 clams and 47 mussels) collected from food markets in Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, and South Korea. When expressing MP content in terms of MPs per gram considering the entire shellfish content, they detected between 0.13-0.20 MPs per g of shellfish content vs 0.19-0.33 MPs per g of EWT. This means that depending on the mass of shellfish considered, the concentration varies (one piece of MP in every 3 grams of EWT compared to one piece in every 5 grams of whole shellfish content).

Why is this important? First and foremost, this differentiation provides scientists with a more accurate and less biased understanding of microplastics potentially consumed via shellfish. According to the scientists, "standardizing exposure metrics could reduce uncertainty by 30-40%, yielding more relevant and less biased outcomes." Secondly, one of the main problems in microplastics research today is a lack in the standardization of analytical methods. Being specific about the parameters applied will help scientists develop standard operating procedures in microplastics research, ensure that future studies will be easier to compare, and ultimately help them understand the health risks associated with microplastics exposure.

Maxime Vankoningsloo will present on Friday, October 27th, at 14:30 in a session titled "Metrology in Support of Risk Assessment of Contaminants in Food." The conference will be held in person, uniting scientists in food-related fields such as food chemistry, nutrition, food safety, risk assessment, and food authenticity, fields where metrology plays a pivotal role in ensuring consumer protection. Click here for the detailed agenda. 

By delving into the complexities of microplastic measurement, Imptox scientists help pave the way for a standardized approach, enhancing our understanding of these pervasive particles and ensuring a safer, more informed future for consumers worldwide.

Keywords: microplastics, nanoplastics, human health, plastic pollution, science