Nano-plastics in the aquatic environment

Environ Sci Process Impacts. 2015 Oct;17(10):1712-21. doi: 10.1039/c5em00227c. Epub 2015 Sep 4.


The amount of plastics released to the environment in modern days has increased substantially since the development of modern plastics in the early 1900s. As a result, concerns have been raised by the public about the impact of plastics on nature and on, specifically, aquatic wildlife. Lately, much attention has been paid to macro- and micro-sized plastics and their impact on aquatic organisms. However, micro-sized plastics degrade subsequently into nano-sizes whereas nano-sized particles may be released directly into nature. Such particles have a different impact on aquatic organisms than larger pieces of plastic due to their small size, high surface curvature, and large surface area. This review describes the possible sources of nano-sized plastic, its distribution and behavior in nature, the impact of nano-sized plastic on the well-being of aquatic organisms, and the difference of impact between nano- and micro-sized particles. We also identify research areas which urgently need more attention and suggest experimental methods to obtain useful data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aquatic Organisms
  • Environment
  • Particle Size
  • Plastics / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical