A Children’s Health Perspective on Nano- and Microplastics

Type Article
Date 2022-01
Language English
Author(s) Sripada KamORCID1, 2, Wierzbicka AnetaORCID3, 4, Abass KhaledORCID5, 6, Grimalt Joan O.ORCID7, Erbe Andreas8, Röllin Halina B.ORCID9, 10, Weihe PálORCID11, Díaz Gabriela Jiménez12, Singh RandolphORCID13, Visnes TorkildORCID14, Rautio Arja15, Odland Jon ØyvindORCID9, 12, 16, Wagner MartinORCID17
Affiliation(s) 1 : Centre for Digital Life Norway, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway
2 : Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research (CHAIN), NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
3 : Ergonomics and Aerosol Technology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
4 : Centre for Healthy Indoor Environments, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
5 : Arctic Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
6 : Department of Pesticides, Menoufia University, Menoufia, Egypt
7 : Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
8 : Department of Materials Science and Engineering, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
9 : School of Health Systems and Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
10 : Environment and Health Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Johannesburg, South Africa
11 : Department of Occupational Medicine and Public Health, Faroese Hospital System, Faroe Islands
12 : Department of Public Health and Nursing, Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
13 : Laboratoire Biogéochimie des Contaminants Organiques, Institut français de recherche pour l’exploitation de la mer, Nantes, France
14 : Department of Biotechnology and Nanomedicine, SINTEF Industry, Trondheim, Norway
15 : Arctic Health, Thule Institute, University of Oulu and University of the Arctic, Oulu, Finland
16 : Department of General Hygiene, I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, Moscow, Russia
17 : Department of Biology, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
Source Environmental Health Perspectives (0091-6765) (Environmental Health Perspectives), 2022-01 , Vol. 130 , N. 1 , P. 015001-1 - 015001-15
DOI 10.1289/EHP9086
WOS© Times Cited 21


Pregnancy, infancy, and childhood are sensitive windows for environmental exposures. Yet the health effects of exposure to nano- and microplastics (NMPs) remain largely uninvestigated or unknown. Although plastic chemicals are a well-established research topic, the impacts of plastic particles are unexplored, especially with regard to early life exposures.


This commentary aims to summarize the knowns and unknowns around child- and pregnancy-relevant exposures to NMPs via inhalation, placental transfer, ingestion and breastmilk, and dermal absorption.


A comprehensive literature search to map the state of the science on NMPs found 37 primary research articles on the health relevance of NMPs during early life and revealed major knowledge gaps in the field. We discuss opportunities and challenges for quantifying child-specific exposures (e.g., NMPs in breastmilk or infant formula) and health effects, in light of global inequalities in baby bottle use, consumption of packaged foods, air pollution, hazardous plastic disposal, and regulatory safeguards. We also summarize research needs for linking child health and NMP exposures and address the unknowns in the context of public health action.


Few studies have addressed child-specific sources of exposure, and exposure estimates currently rely on generic assumptions rather than empirical measurements. Furthermore, toxicological research on NMPs has not specifically focused on child health, yet children’s immature defense mechanisms make them particularly vulnerable. Apart from few studies investigating the placental transfer of NMPs, the physicochemical properties (e.g., polymer, size, shape, charge) driving the absorption, biodistribution, and elimination in early life have yet to be benchmarked. Accordingly, the evidence base regarding the potential health impacts of NMPs in early life remains sparse. Based on the evidence to date, we provide recommendations to fill research gaps, stimulate policymakers and industry to address the safety of NMPs, and point to opportunities for families to reduce early life exposures to plastic.

Full Text
File Pages Size Access
Publisher's official version 15 1 MB Open access
Supplemental Material 4 172 KB Open access
Supplemental Material 2 1 156 KB Open access
Top of the page

How to cite 

Sripada Kam, Wierzbicka Aneta, Abass Khaled, Grimalt Joan O., Erbe Andreas, Röllin Halina B., Weihe Pál, Díaz Gabriela Jiménez, Singh Randolph, Visnes Torkild, Rautio Arja, Odland Jon Øyvind, Wagner Martin (2022). A Children’s Health Perspective on Nano- and Microplastics. Environmental Health Perspectives, 130(1), 015001-1 - 015001-15. Publisher's official version : https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP9086 , Open Access version : https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00750/86179/