Microplastics as Vectors for Environmental Contaminants : Exploring Sorption, Desorption, and Transfer to Biota

Nanna B. Hartmann, Sinja Rist, Julia Bodin, Louise Helene Søgaard Jensen, Stine Nørgaard Schmidt, Philipp Mayer, Anders Meibom, Anders Baun

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The occurrence and effects of microplastics (MPs) in the aquatic environment are receiving increasing attention. In addition to their possible direct adverse effects on biota, the potential role of MPs as vectors for hydrophobic organic chemicals (HOCs), compared to natural pathways, is a topic of much debate. It is evident, however, that temporal and spatial variations of MP occurrence do (and will) occur. To further improve the estimations of the role of MPs as vectors for HOC transfer into biota under varying MP concentrations and environmental conditions, it is important to identify and understand the governing processes. Here, we explore HOC sorption to and desorption from MPs and the underlying principles for their interactions. We discuss intrinsic and extrinsic parameters influencing these processes and focus on the importance of the exposure route for diffusive mass transfer. Also, we outline research needed to fill knowledge gaps and improve model-based calculations of MP-facilitated HOC transfer in the environment. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2017;13:488–493. © 2017 SETAC
Original languageEnglish
JournalIntegrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)488-493
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Microplastics
  • Contaminants
  • Hydrophobic organic chemicals (HOCs)
  • Exposure
  • Transfer
  • Ecotoxicity


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