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VeilleNanos - Manufactured nano-plastics

Manufactured nano-plastics

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Manufactured nano-plastics

By the AVICENN team – Last modification in June 2022

Different types of nanoplastics

More and more plastic nanoparticles are invading soils (after spreading sludge from wastewater treatment1plantsEfficient WWTPs with nanoplastics, Le Matin, February 5, 2019 in particular), rivers and oceans.

  • Some nano-plastics come from the degradation of plastics (packaging, waste, etc.) into micro-particles, which then break down into nano-particles2See for example :-The slow fragmentation of plastics decipheredJulienne Fanon, The Conversation, October 2019 –Tea bags Infusions with microplastics and nanoparticles, Que Choisir, September 2019 –Plastic waste disintegrates into nanoparticles, study finds, Lund University, December 2018 and Nanoplastics formed during the mechanical breakdown of daily-use polystyrene productsEkvall MT et al, Nanoscale Adv., 1 : 1055-1061, 2019..
  • D’autres micro- et nano-plastiques sont quant à eux intégrés intentionnellement dans des mélanges utilisés par les consommateurs ou les professionnels3Voir notamment :
    La nanofabrication : une réponse aux enjeux de la plasturgie et des composites, L’Usine Nouvelle, 16 août 2022
    – La fabrication de nanoplastiques, résumée en vidéo ci-dessous dans le cadre du programme de recherche européen OPTINANOPRO (2015-2018), axé sur les secteurs de l’emballage, de l’automobile et de l’énergie solaire (résumé en français ici). Les 25 produits polymères créés ont été testés jusqu’au compostage. Question citoyenne à documenter : quel est devenir de cette fragmentation ? Des nanoparticules de plastiques contenant des nanoparticules ?
    – Un autre programme européen MINANO achevé en 2013 indique les types de plastiques incorporant des nanoparticules : polypropylène (PP) pour les nanocomposites plastiques et au polychlorure de vinyle (PVC) pour les nanocomposites bois-plastique et des mousse de polystyrène (pour l’isolation des bâtiments). Les nanoparticules fonctionnalisées ajoutées sont du magnesium dihydroxide (MDH) Mg(OH)2, de l’oxyde de zinc nano ZnO, et du nanoargent.
    • in cosmetic products (microbeads used for their exfoliating properties – banned in France since 2018)
    • in detergents and cleaning products
    • in paints, coatings and building materials
    • in pharmaceutical products
    • in phytosanitary products (e.g. fertilizer coatings, to release them gradually)
    • in the oil and gas sector

A cascade of adverse effects?

Their release and diffusion in the ecosystems lead to a cascade of harmful effects that are still insufficiently evaluated, from aquatic fauna to other animals (including humans) that feed on them4Cf. Scallops suck in billions of plastic particles, National Geographic, December 5, 2018 (study abstract in English: Uptake, Whole-Body Distribution, and Depuration of Nanoplastics by the Scallop Pecten maximus at Environmentally Realistic Concentrations, Al-Sid-Cheikh M et al, ES&T, 52(24): 14480-14486, 2018. And Scientific Colloquium 25 “Microplastics and nanoplastics in food and feed”, EFSA, June 2020.

Research is being conducted on the subject in France5Among the thirty-four projects selected by the Anses within the framework of the National Environment-Health-Work Research Program in 2020, the “Transplast” project aims to study the effects of micro- and nano-plastics on the activity of membrane transporters of xenobiotics (it is coordinated by M. Fardel (IRSET/INSERM) and elsewhere6 See for example:
The Mobility of Plastic Nanoparticles in Aqueous and Soil Environments: A Critical Review, Brewer A et al, ACS EST Water, 2020
Plastic pollution also threatens plants (and by the way, our food), Marcus Dupont-Besnard, June 23, 2020
Differentially charged nanoplastics demonstrate distinct accumulation in Arabidopsis thaliana, Xiao-Dong Sun et al, Nature Nanotechnology, 22 June 2020
Micro- and nano-plastics in our environment: Understanding exposures and impacts on human health, Call H2020-SC1-BHC-2018-2020
Focus on Nanoplastic, Nature Nanotechnology, April 2019
Emergence of Nanoplastic in the Environment and Possible Impact on Human Health, Lehner R et al., About. Sci. Technol., 2019
Quantifying ecological risks of aquatic micro- and nanoplastic, Besseling E et al, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 2019
Biological Effects and Implications of Micro- and Nanoplastics in the Aquatic Environment, Rist S, thesis, Technical University of Denmark, 2019
Closing the gap between small and smaller: towards a framework to analyse nano- and microplastics in aqueous environmental samples, Mintenig, SM et al, Environ. Sci.: Nano,5: 1640-1649, 2018
Nanoplastics in the Aquatic Environment, Mattsson K et al, in Microplastic Contamination in Aquatic Environments – An Emerging Matter of Environmental Urgency, 379-399, 2018
Ingestion of micro- and nanoplastics in Daphnia magna – Quantification of body burdens and assessment of feeding rates and reproduction, Rist S et al, Environmental Pollution, 228: 398-407, September 2017
to evaluate their effects on the environment (eco-toxicity), but also their role in the dissemination of other pollutants that cling to their surface7See for example Transport of micro- and nanoplastics in the environment: Trojan-Horse effect for organic contaminants, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 52(5), 2022 (we speak of the “Trojan Horse” effect) and in the occurrence of “cocktail effects” triggered by the association with other nanoparticles or undesirable substances8See for example:
Nanoplastics enhance the toxic effects of titanium dioxide nanoparticle in freshwater algae Scenedesmus obliquus, Das S et al, Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part C: Toxicology & Pharmacology, 256, June 2022
Are gold nanoparticles and microplastics mixtures more toxic to the marine microalgae Tetraselmis chuii than the substances individually?, Davarpanah E, Guilhermino L, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 181: 60-68, October 2019

Micro vs. nano: a framework for debate

In January 2019, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) had proposed to restrict some of these micro- and nano-plastics intentionally incorporated by manufacturers9Cf: ECHA proposes to restrict intentionally added microplastics, ECHA, January 30, 2019 ; ANNEX XV RESTRICTION REPORT – PROPOSAL FOR A RESTRICTION- intentionally added microplastics, ECHA, January 2019 : “‘microplastic’ means a material consisting of solid polymercontaining particles, to which additives or other substances may have been added, and where ≥ 1% w/w of particles have (i) all dimensions 1nm ≤ x ≤ 5mm, or (ii), for fibers, a length of 3nm ≤ x ≤ 15mm and length to diameter ratio of >3”. But in June 2020, following industrial lobbying, ECHA withdrew nanoplastics from its draft restriction, sparking outrage from NGOs, including the European Environmental Bureau (EEB)10On September 1, 2020, the NGO European Environmental Bureau (EEB) alerted on the lobbying of industrialists who made the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) back down in its project to restrict microplastics intentionally added in many products (detergents, paints and inks, construction materials, medicines and fertilizers): included in the initial project, plastic nanoparticles were removed from the project presented in June by ECHA. In the article “Microplastics: lobbying at the frontiers of the tiny” published the same day in Le Monde, the journalist Stéphane Horel relays the work of the EEB which shows how the chemical industries and their federations (CEFIC, PlasticsEurope), by advocating self-regulation, have managed to increase the size of plastic particles concerned by the restriction measures envisaged by the ECHA from 1 to 100 nanometers. Microplastics would be banned, but not nanoplastics, as these nanoparticles are “both more toxic and more easily absorbed by living cells”, the EEB said.who fears that manufacturers will substitute nanoplastics for microplastics once the regulations are in force.

In a report published on November 16, 2020by environmental NGOs mobilized at the European level to reduce microplastic pollution, led by Rethink PlasticThe European Environmental Bureau (BEE), Customer Earth et Break free from Plastic reiterated their concerns and recommended that nanoplastics be reinstated in the microplastics restriction project as initially proposed by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), with restrictions on particles smaller than 5 mm, with no lower size limit. The objective is toto avoid an “absurd” substitution of banned microplastics by nanoplastics that would not be concerned by the restriction being defined; the aim is to avoid increased pollution due to their diffusion in the environment11The road to an effective EU restriction of intentionally-added microplastics, Rethink Plastic, the European Environmental Bureau(EEB), Client Earth and Break free from Plastic, 16 November 2020 (p.15) – especially since it is technically possible to measure plastic particles of nanometric size12See for example:
Symposium ‘Challenges of microplastic analysis – Bridging state of the art and policy needs’, JRC, 9 September 2021
Characterizing microplastics in marine environments: LNE involved in the MOUSTIC project, LNE, 12 February 2021 (partnership between LNE – Institut des matériaux Jean Rouxel (IMN) – ANSES food safety laboratory (Boulogne-sur-Mer site) – INRAE (BIA unit)).
Measuring particle size distribution and mass concentration of nanoplastics and microplastics: addressing some analytical challenges in the sub-micron size range”, Caputo F et al, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 401-417, April 2021.
– Georges Favre, director of the LNE Nanotech Institute, On LinkedIn, January 25, 2021: “ES-SMPS can be also a good option in this aim by providing number concentration and a size range from a few nm to 500 nm. Work to develop an ISO standard on this analytical approach will start in an early future”.

ECHA’s final version was made public in December 2020Cf.13Scientific committees: EU-wide restriction best way to reduce microplastic pollution, ECHA, 9 December 2020 and Final Background Document to the Opinion on the Annex XV report proposing restrictions on intentionally added microplastics, ECHA, December 2020 and forwarded to the Commission for its proposal.
But the latter is still not published… although it should have been published more than a year ago now, in May 2021. After the outrage expressed in November 2021Cf.14Delay in proposed microplastics restriction leading to irreversible pollution, EEB, November 25, 2021 and again in May 2022 by European NGOs in the face of Brussels’ inertiaCf.15EU’s detox pledge sabotaged by illegal delay to microplastics regulation, EEB & ClientEarth, 1 June 2022See16Delay in EU microplastics restriction proposal is illegal, say NGOs, Chemical Watch, 1 June 2022 and EU executive promises microplastics restrictions after accusation of ‘illegal delay, ENDS Europe, 2 June 2022. It will then have to be voted on by the EU Member States in the REACH Committee and then examined by the Council and the European Parliament.

Pending a harmonized definition, expert groups such as the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) define nanoplastics as extremely small plastic fragments smaller than 1 μm (GESAMP, 2019)17Cf The FAO report of 2021: FAO. 2021. Assessment of agricultural plastics and their sustainability. A call for action. Rome.

What research has been done on the subject?

In August 2019, following the publication of a analysis of the state of research on microplastics in drinking waterthe World Health Organization (WHO) had called for more research on micro- and nanoplastics and strong action against plastic pollution18Cf. WHO calls for more research on microplastics and strong action on plastic pollution, WHO, 22 August 2019.

Anses announced at the end of 2021 that it would fund four projects on the study of micro and nanoplastics under its National Environment-Health-Work Research Program (PNR EST).

At the European level, the PlasticFate program (2021-2025) studies the risks of micro- and nano-plastics for human health.

To be continued!

What recommendations?

In August 2020, a reportCf.19Global Summit on Regulatory Science 2019 Nanotechnology and Nanoplastics, JRC & GCRSR, Publications Office of the European Union, 2020 from the Joint Research Center (JRC) and the Global Coalition for Regulatory Science Research (GCRSR) has been published; it summarizes the discussions of a conference on the topic of nanoplastics that brought together nearly 200 stakeholders from 36 different countries in 2019. Among the recommendations made:

  • a coordination effort on terminology, definitions, sampling, characterization, and hazard and exposure assessment of nanoplastics to produce reference materials, as well as “robust” standards, guidance and regulations
  • an information and exchange platform on nano- and microplastics
  • collaboration between stakeholders, building trust through data transparency20Other more general recommendations include:
    -Increased efforts to ensure that testing of nanomaterials, especially those used in nanomedicine, is rigorous, reproducible and comparable across samples and situations throughout the development pipeline
    – harmonization of methods, standards and reference materials
    – the intensification of ongoing international efforts to address the potential health and environmental hazards of nanomaterials
    -The development of collaborations and continuous communication on scientific research on the regulation of nanomaterials, as well as the appropriate harmonization of legal and regulatory structures.

NB: In cosmetics, alternatives exist to obtain the desired exfoliating effect: almond powder, coconut shells or crushed olive pits for example.

Elsewhere on the web

In French :

In English:

A comment, a question? This sheet realized by AVICENN is intended to be completed and updated. Please feel free to contribute.

The next nano meetings

NanoSafe conference 2023 (CEA, Grenoble)
  • 8th International Conference on Health Issues for a Responsible Approach to Nanomaterials
  • From June 5 to 9, 2023
  • Organizer: French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission(CEA)
  • Website:…
How the world deals with Materials on the Nanoscale – Responsible Use and Challenges (OECD-BMUV, Berlin)
  • International Conference from June 22 to 23, 2023
  • Organizers: OECD, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection(BMUV)
  • Website: https: //…
São Paulo School of Advanced Science on Nanotechnology, Agriculture & Environment (SPSAS NanoAgri&Enviro, São Paulo)
São Paulo
  • From July 3 to 15, 2023 in São Paulo
  • Organizer: FABESP
  • Application from November 18 to February 05. Registration fees and travel expenses are covered.
  • Speakers: see the complete program here.

This sheet was originally created in February 2019

Notes & références

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